Focusing on Student Experience and Addressing Mental Wellness

by Katie Sloan

Las Vegas — Industry leaders from all over the country came together at the most recent National Multifamily Housing Council Student Housing Conference. The conference was held from October 17-19 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada and was designed to provide a deep dive and exchange of information into the business of student housing.

This year, the College Student Mental Wellness Advocacy Coalition added a deeper focus to the overall student experience when it comes to addressing mental health. Shifting gears from top of mind industry data and amenity trends, members of the Coalition shared insights into how hundreds of thousands of residents approach their everyday college life.

In this special panel, Dan Oltersdorf from Campus Advantage and co-founding Coalition member spoke to the concept of the Coalition which is committed to better understanding residents, encouraging open dialogues and raising public awareness about the importance of mental wellness and its impact on students as they work to realize their full potential along their college journey and beyond.

“We received keen interest from everyone within the industry. Based on these interactions and feedback, I believe this interest stems not just because of the compelling results of the Thriving Survey, but also a

connection to what we are seeing in our personal and professional lives, with shared experiences around mental health,” said Oltersdorf.

Here are some key takeaways from the conversation featuring Dan Oltersdorf, Jennifer Cassidy, Richie Lasek, Dr. Sonia Krishna, and Casey Petersen.

Why join the coalition?

Currently, two out of three people experiencing mental illness do not seek help. As leaders who envision a world where all young adults thrive with the support of the residential communities, whose teams are dedicated to promoting and advocating for mental wellness to facilitate personal fulfillment and academic success, the Coalition works to remove the stigma around mental health, one conversation at a time.

What mental health focused partners will you be connected to?

Nonprofit organization the ‘Hi, How Are You?’ project aims to educate people worldwide about the importance of mental health and wellbeing while promoting a culture of inclusion. With accurate and actionable data in hand, the Hi, How Are You Project and Coalition members will continue to co-create industry wide peer-to-peer on-site training programs, connect residents to campus resources for mental health and wellness, and promote ways to manage stress and anxiety in college. The annual Hi, How Are You Day on January 22, 2024 will be the official release date of the annual Thriving College Students Index Survey.

The Jed Foundation (JED) joined the Coalition this year to gear up for the current Thriving College Student Index Survey being administered from October 2023 – November 2023. JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, giving them the skills and support they need to thrive today and tomorrow. The Jed Foundation is pleased to develop a “Postvention Guidebook” in February 2023 for the College Student Mental Wellness Advocacy Coalition. As defined by National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (2015), postvention is an “organized response” to facilitate grief processing and healing in the aftermath of a student death, to reduce other negative impacts of exposure to suicide, and to prevent suicide for those who are at increased risk in the aftermath of a suicide. JED expert staff will provide a resource that will help enable the College Student Mental Wellness Advocacy Coalition to respond rapidly, consistently, and compassionately during a sudden and tragic loss of life.

Who is the Coalition reaching?

The Coalition is reaching 220 markets including 1,403 properties with nearly 800,000 students.

“Discussing the Coalition’s work and the topic of mental wellness really struck a chord, and it was affirming to see the desire to support and grow this initiative,” said Dr. Sonia Krishna, a board-certified physician specializing in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and Hi, How Are You Project board member. “Energized by this discussion, we will continue to further refine our work creating peer-to-peer training that we help design for community assistants and other team members at all of these organizations.”

To get connected and join the conversation around mental health, please reach out to the membership leadership team for the Coalition, [email protected].

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