Honoring Our Heritage, Nurturing Our Mental Health: A Black History Month Reflection
By Jessica Orenstein As a young Black woman, this Black History Month feels particularly poignant. It’s a time when we celebrate the richness of our ...
Before accepting the position of Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Ithaca College, Brian Peterson had already heard of The Jed Foundation (JED). He’d worked with JED in his previous role at Pace University and knew that he wanted to bring JED to Ithaca, as well.
“[JED is] really the best practice right now for creating mental health and wellness services on college campuses,” he said. “It is probably the best organization nationally, from the point of view of being thoughtful about all aspects of creating a wellness community.”
For Peterson and his co-chair on the campus JED Committee, Michelle Goode, Program Director at Ithaca’s Center for Health Promotion, JED’s emphasis on community has made a difference for both students and faculty.
“I’ve been really inspired to work with our students who are on the JED team,” Goode said. “This semester alone we have several students who are co-chairing their own subcommittees. They’re working hand-in-hand with staff and faculty members.”
The JED student taskforce on campus helped initiate community-building programs, including a “Stop and Breathe” campaign to encourage students to de-stress during finals and “Neon Nights,” a JED-sponsored dance for mental health.
“Again, it’s a community focus,” Peterson added. “So even though a lot of the direct interventions will center on student needs, JED really wants you to focus on every level of your community.”
In addition to emphasizing a community of caring, JED also helped the school implement a postvention protocol, introduced more bystander training for staff, and inspired Ithaca to focus a new initiative on the connection between substance misuse and mental health. Goode expressed hope that JED’s influence will extend far beyond its four-year program, through both involvement and dedication from students and staff.
In terms of looking to the future, Peterson shared one final thought: “The goal is that eventually everybody on your campus is sharing in the responsibility of looking out for each other and taking care of each other.”
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