Staff reflects on JED Campus mental health initiative

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In an attempt to address concerns over mental health at the College of William and Mary, staff members in various university departments have introduced reforms through the JED Campus program throughout the 2018-19 academic year. 

The College has worked with JED for the past four years. JED is a program which provides resources to promote mental health and suicide prevention, and evaluates schools’ performance on metrics related to these issues.

JED was established at the College after rising complaints among students regarding mental health.

According to Vice President of Health and Wellness Kelly Crace, the College incorporated JED into the College’s mental health standards as a continuation of the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, which was given to the College for three years in 2012. The $235,000 grant funded suicide prevention efforts. 

Counselor Jen Floor and psychology professors Liz Rasposa and Chris Conway comprise the JED leadership team at the College, and act as a connection between the national JED program and the College’s offices. 

The JED Campus program has been incorporated into several departments at the College, such as the Dean of Students Office, various academic departments, the Office of First Year Experience, the Student Health Center, the William and Mary Health Outreach Peer Educators and the New Leaf Clinic. 

According to Assistant Dean of Students Rachel McDonald, the Dean of Students Office of Academic Enrichment has implemented the JED program in four ways in order to better address students’ mental health needs.

“As a result of the university’s engagement with the JED Foundation, the Dean of Students Office of Academic Enrichment has implemented strategies and initiatives that have enabled staff to better assess, monitor, and intervene upon student well-being,” McDonald said.

“As a result of the university’s engagement with the JED Foundation, the Dean of Students Office of Academic Enrichment has implemented strategies and initiatives that have enabled staff to better assess, monitor, and intervene upon student well-being,” McDonald said.

Firstly, the Dean of Students Office has implemented a survey that allows staff to determine sources of difficulties for students.

The office has also implemented identification and intervention services for at-risk students, which it identifies as students with GPAs between 2.0-2.49.

Furthermore, the office has created a new graduate assistant position to ensure additional staffing for students in need of guidance, intervention and referral services.

Lastly, the Dean of Students Office has implemented a variety of ongoing services through the JED to address the needs of the students including peer academic coaching, English language assistance and professional academic consulting. 

Along with implementing JED Campus in various departments across campus, the program has assisted other groups on campus to address the mental health needs of students. 

“We know at least that demand for mental health services continues to grow,” Conway said.   “Hopefully our group’s efforts, and those of other organizations on campus, are encouraging students, faculty and staff to recognize mental health problems and ask for help when needed.”

“We know at least that demand for mental health services continues to grow,” Conway said.   “Hopefully our group’s efforts, and those of other organizations on campus, are encouraging students, faculty and staff to recognize mental health problems and ask for help when needed.”

The College’s JED leadership team recently met with JED’s national program to evaluate the College’s progress on mental health issues. 

“It was also a time when we were able to discuss next steps and how to keep our efforts moving forward,” Crace said. “The W and M team will be meeting this summer to clarify where we go from here.”

“It was also a time when we were able to discuss next steps and how to keep our efforts moving forward,” Crace said. “The W and M team will be meeting this summer to clarify where we go from here.”

Although the program will be over, the College will continue to have access to materials and consultation groups so that they can continue to utilize the JED Campus program to address the mental health needs of students.

According to Conway, since many other schools have implemented the JED program on their campus, the College will also be able to learn from these schools’ successes and failures. Some of these schools include Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University and George Mason University. 

A summary of the JED Campus efforts will be made on the College’s website for interested students to see what remains to be done and see what improvements can be made to the College.

In addition to the JED program, the College also built the Integrative Health and Wellness Center, added after-hours counseling assistance and formed a partnership with the Park Rx project, which encourages healthcare providers to motivate patients to spend time outdoors, in an effort to broaden the scope of mental health initiatives offered to students.

However, according to Conway, the College must be ready to implement and change mental health programs to truly address the evolving mental health needs of the student body. 

“The social and political climate seems to be creating greater risk for underrepresented and marginalized groups, so I’ll be interested to see how the W and M administration responds to that,” Conway said.