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How Chatbots Can Support Mental Health

May 20, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Ryan Cameron

Colleges and universities provide students with much more than degrees. Developing professional skills while additionally fostering ethical leadership, requires a commitment to many facets within a student’s total academic journey. From excellent academic support, to travel and social activities, the ways in which a university engages with a student is very comprehensive. Among the various student engagements, are the resources and care required to support the mental health for all members within a learning community. 

For decades, higher education has excelled in providing resources to support the physical health of students. From exceptional gyms and athletics programs, all the way to on-campus health clinics and healthy eating options. Students now enjoy outstanding benefits from being a part of a college or university. The research proves healthy students enjoy richer, more productive lives, and in particular perform better in school. Much in the same manner, it is no surprise that a student’s mental health can vastly impact a student’s ability to succeed in their studies. 

As vaccinations roll out, the impact of the COVID pandemic continues to resonate beyond that of the result of being physically isolated over the last year or more. A recent report from the student services research organization, and four other mental health advocacy organizations including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), found 58 percent of higher education students report being moderately to extremely worried about their personal mental health. Additionally, over 45 percent of respondents in the same report stated they were uncomfortable about returning to a campus location in the fall. It is evident that meeting the mental health needs of students continues to be a very important part of higher education. 

How can academic leaders provide the same robust resource benefits as physical health to meet the mental health needs of students? 

Here are three examples where Ivy.ai can help institutions better promote positive mental health within their communities.

New Student Orientation

New student orientations can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are an incredible array of resources and activities to avail of when students are new to an institution. Regardless if you are a new student, transfer student, or a part of a family being welcomed to a university community, there simply is too much information and too little time during orientation. For example, the average freshman may have limited experience navigating online resources, new technologies, and how to find their way around a new campus. There is also a sheer amount of logistics involved just to enroll in one year of college.

Between payment, selecting a dorm and finding classes to take, students may struggle to respond to the adversity that comes with starting a new experience. Ivy.ai can help thwart some of the challenges adjusting to attending a new school that could eventually lead to summer melt, transfer or deferment.

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If institutions plan on recouping some of the losses due to COVID, retaining students needs to be a top priority. By allowing students to speak freely and openly about some of their mental health challenges while acclimating to their new institution, administrators will have the data to intervene when necessary and keep student satisfaction high. 

Homesickness Prevention

For traditional undergraduate students, being away from home may pose a significant challenge for students who aren’t used to being separated from their families. At an institution, the combination of leaving home, the challenges of making new friends and the lack of emotional support might trigger a student to struggle with adapting to their new environment. Eliminating stress and helping students feel connected and supported to their institutions are critical elements to supporting positive mental health. 

Higher ed can help mitigate some of the problems homesickness may cause—such as dropping out or transferring to an institution closer to home—through early intervention. Through the advent of Ivy.ai’s platform and chatbots, institutions can send impactful “nudge campaigns” to help students find, and get the support they need. 

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Nudge campaigns allow institutions to periodically follow-up with students and provide a concierge program that supports students no matter how they’re feeling. Institutions can trigger campaigns based on a specific time after orientation when homesickness is likely to kick in or during the winter when seasonal depression could make students longing to go home. 

Student Homelessness

Institutions are committed to the success and wellbeing of every student. As such, there is a careful balance between providing resources and appropriate interventions and avoiding interfering with a student’s busy personal life. However, some students may need help if their living situation is complex due to a lack of resources. 

Ivy.ai empowers students to opt into more opportunities for finding help anonymously when they need housing that otherwise wouldn’t be available. Since some students may be hesitant to ask for help in person, a chatbot allows students to seek help discreetly and anonymously. 

In particular, institutions can integrate their chatbot with the CARE network to provide a public safety hotline that can help students related to financial, personal, social and family-related issues. It also provides access to trained counselors, should students need a trained professional to speak with someone on any hardships they’re facing.

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As students begin returning to campus, institutions will need to carefully monitor the emotional well-being of their students. Fortunately, AI chatbots have given institutions a unique opportunity to personalize student engagement while monitoring for warning signs along the way. 

Not only can this renewed focus bring about better satisfaction and performance, it can lead to a meaningful boost in school retention numbers.

 
Ryan Cameron

Written by Ryan Cameron

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