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Rutgers Joins JED Campus to Support Student Mental Health

Nationwide initiative designed to help schools evaluate and strengthen programs that foster students' emotional well-being

According to the 2018 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment of more than 26,000 students, 41% of students reported being so depressed during the last 12 months that it was difficult to function while 11% had seriously considered suicide during the same period.

Meanwhile, the nationwide rate of students utilizing counseling centers grew by 29.6% between 2009 and 2015, outpacing by five times the 5.6% growth in enrollment during that same period, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

“We have been addressing the mental health and substance abuse awareness of our students for years. But we know there’s more we can do,” said Melodee Lasky, assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness for the Division of Student Affairs at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We want to make the best use of our time and funds. That’s why we are bringing in experts with a national reputation who are working with schools throughout the United States to help us figure out our next best steps.”

With JED Campus, Rutgers will embark on a multiyear strategic collaboration that will assess and enhance the work already being done universitywide, said Lasky. The program will provide assessment tools, feedback reports, a strategic plan and ongoing support to help create positive, lasting, systemic change across all the university’s locations.

To that end, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences will work together on this unique project. Each campus will focus on how to best serve its own community while spending time looking at Rutgers overall in terms of mental health, suicide prevention and substance use support and programs, and finding areas ripe for collaboration or integration.

“By joining JED Campus, Rutgers is strengthening our steadfast commitment to supporting student emotional health and well-being,” said Brian Strom, executive vice president for health affairs at Rutgers and chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Working together, we can build on the support services and resources we provide students so they can thrive at Rutgers and beyond.”

Over four years, JED Campus schools will:

  • collaborate with the JED Campus team to identify opportunities to enhance emotional health as well as substance use and suicide prevention efforts.
  • complete an in-depth, confidential survey at the beginning of the program and then again after three years to assess mental health promotion, substance use and suicide prevention efforts.
  • participate in a full-day, in-person campus visit with JED Campus staff to generate goals for improvement and develop a strategic plan that serves as a roadmap over the course of the program.
  • receive ongoing support from a dedicated campus adviser who provides consultation, guidance and resources to help each school achieve its goals.
  • become members of a nationwide network of JED Campus schools.

“JED Campus helps schools by working with them to survey everything their university is doing to support their students’ emotional health and find practical ways to augment these efforts in a comprehensive way,” said John MacPhee, executive director of JED. “We believe that the implementation of a campuswide approach to mental health will lead to safer, healthier communities and likely greater student retention.”

Joining JED Campus reinforces the university’s aim to support students in all aspects of their lives, said Anice Thomas, executive director for Student Health and Wellness at Rutgers-Newark. “We are committed to wholly supporting students as a Rutgers community as they navigate college life, pursue their education and grow as emotionally strong adults,” she said.

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