Suicide rates among young people have been on the rise over the past 15 years and research from The Jed Foundation showed that social isolation, anxiety, trouble concentrating, and difficulty handling emotions are top concerns among teens and young adults. Parents are worried about the effects of pandemic lockdown on their children’s social and emotional development, and experts are preparing for a global mental health crisis. We expect that the effects of COVID-19 on mental health will be a topic studied for the next several years.
Meanwhile, colleges—as large, real-life systems that collectively serve millions of young adults—are expected to do so much more than to educate our students. But colleges are often unsure of how to approach mental health and suicide prevention in a systematic way. Now is the time to address these topics.
In a recently peer-reviewed paper, A Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities: Insights from the JED Campus Program, published by the National Academy of Medicine, JED explores the growing concerns of teens and young adults as they enter into their college years and offers concrete approaches that colleges should implement to support these young people. The recommendations are based on JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities. For nearly a decade, JED has been supporting colleges and universities in assessing and strengthening their mental health systems in order to protect their students. Today, JED partners with nearly 350 colleges and universities nationwide to help improve their mental health and suicide prevention systems and approaches in order to prevent suicide and better protect the mental health of their students.
When mental health is supported by a community-wide campus network, college students feel better connected to one another, better cared for by others, and are more likely to be recognized by campus professionals and connected to mental health care if they are struggling. They can also better attend to their schoolwork to graduate on time and achieve post-graduation career goals.
JED recommends a comprehensive mix of programs, strategies, and policies that map to an evidence-based, seven-tiered approach that promotes mental health through life skills and social connectedness, includes early action through early identification measures and promotion of help-seeking behaviors, expands campus mental health services, and provides crisis intervention and environmental safety measures on campus locations.
The paper also addresses promising results of the JED Campus program, including the following findings:
- Schools participating in JED Campus have made significant changes in their approach to mental health. By utilizing JED’s Comprehensive Approach, they are implementing purposeful plans for student emotional health and suicide prevention. Particular advances are seen in identifying students at risk by improving mental health screenings at health center visits and training more faculty and staff members on mental health challenges and signs of suicidal ideation. Far more colleges are ensuring that their campuses are safe and secure from students accessing deadly or lethal means on school grounds.
- Students in schools participating in JED Campus have demonstrated notable improvements in mental health indicators, including greater mental health campus program awareness, greater participation in gatekeeper training programs, greater usage of mental health services and informal support networks, and reduced attitudes related to mental health stigma.
- Many schools have attributed their progress to the technical support provided by JED Campus Advisors, who compile baseline data and help them set up strategic plans to map out multiple years of program, policy, and systems change on campus. In addition, the support of campus leaders and the creation of multidisciplinary task forces focused on student emotional health have been foundational for change to happen on campuses.
With twenty million young people attending college today, colleges are well positioned to serve as important communities that can play a key role in protecting the mental health of our nation’s young people.
For more than twenty years, JED has been the the expert resource on teen and young adult mental health and suicide prevention. Through the JED Campus initiative, JED is working with schools nationwide to help strengthen their approaches to promoting student mental health and reducing risk for suicide.
John MacPhee, CEO, brings 25 years of leadership and management experience from the business and not-for-profit settings to his role at JED. Passionate about supporting young adults in their transition to adulthood, John advises several organizations including the S. Jay Levy Fellowship for Future Leaders at City College, Trek Medics, Crisis Text Line, the Health Policy and Management Department at the Mailman School of Public Health, and HIV Hero. Earlier in his career, he served in executive positions for Par Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Forest Laboratories, where he oversaw functions such as business development, alliance management, clinical development, regulatory affairs, sales and marketing.
Kamla Modi, Ph.D., joined JED in March 2019 with 15 years of experience in non-profit, academic, community-based, and clinical settings focused on promoting the well-being of diverse groups of youth. In a previous role with the Girl Scout Research Institute, she led national studies with girls and adults to inform Girl Scouts’ programming, policy and advocacy work, strategic direction, as well as to contribute to the body of knowledge on girls’ health and well-being. Kamla holds a PhD in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University and a BA from Rutgers University.