Press Room

Communication Scholars Discuss Mental Health Stigma in Higher Education in a Special Journal Forum

May 22, 2018
New Research
Education, Health

(Washington, DC) — “Yeah, but…” begins many of the sentences that faculty say and hear from one another when it comes to dealing with students’ mental health issues and the stigma surrounding them on top of their academic workload. Educators are hired to teach, research, and focus on other academic issues, not to be counselors. And yet, increasing numbers of students are requesting counseling services to deal with depression, stress, and other issues. A 2017 American College Health Association survey found that 55 percent of students stated they had been diagnosed or treated by a professional for some form of mental illness while in college – and teachers often serve as the front-line responders. Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, the newest issue of the National Communication Association journal Communication Education features a special forum in which Communication scholars discuss mental health stigma in higher education and educators’ role in addressing it.

Here are some highlights:

  • To introduce the forum, C. Kyle Rudick (University of Northern Iowa) and Deanna P. Dannels (NC State University) write that “many of the students with mental illness are struggling within the current system of higher education, and many are seeking out resources to help with that struggle.” They suggest better instructional practices and advanced disciplinary knowledge among faculty about identifying and addressing mental health stigma on college and university campuses.
  • How do communication, stigma, mental health, and education intersect? Rachel A. Smith and Amanda Applegate (Penn State University) address this in their stimulus essay. “Communication is implicitly needed to achieve mental health—to build social relationships and be an active participant in the world and its many publics,” they write.
  • Cheri J. Simonds and John F. Hooker (Illinois State University) show how student anxiety manifests itself in foundational public-speaking courses. “It is the responsibility of course administrators and instructors to create a culture of accommodation for student success,” they write. “We are in a unique position to make a difference for students across majors.”
  • Zachary W. Goldman’s (Illinois College) essay urges Communication scholars to seriously consider how they can better understand and promote emotional, psychological, and social well-being in their classrooms, and offers three areas for development: changing the narrative around mental health, encouraging students’ self-regulation and awareness, and investigating further ways to address students’ mental health.

Read the full issue of Communication Education here.

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To arrange interviews with the authors, contact Jenna Sauber at 202-534-1104 or

About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances Communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.

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