JED encourages college campuses across the U.S. to “glow for mental health”
[April 14, 2023-Tampa, Florida and New York, New York] — The Jed Foundation (JED), a leading national nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults, launched its Neon Nights event at The University of Tampa (UT) on April 13. The event–made for and led by students– is a first for Florida and encourages participants to glow for mental health as they raise awareness and essential funds to support JED’s work of equipping more young people to help themselves, support one another, and overcome mental health challenges.
Nearly 100 students attended the opening ceremony hosted by 21-year-old Jaya Kappaganthula, a rising senior at The University of Tampa, who shared personal stories about his mental health. Afterwards, a colorful parade lit up the campus with volunteers and sponsors stationed at “Glow Zones” along the route to distribute neon-colored swag. The parade then transitioned into a dance party with a DJ and black lights.
“The University of Tampa is honored to host one of the first Neon Nights to benefit The Jed Foundation. As a JED Campus alumnus, we’ve seen firsthand the positive impact of this organization on our students, faculty, and staff,” said Gina Firth, assistant vice president for wellness at The University of Tampa. “Our university is a better community because of our partnership with JED, and we will continue to prioritize mental health and suicide prevention in all we do.”
In 2022, Florida’s suicide rate increased faster than the rest of the country, while the state ranked second to last in terms of access to mental health care.
“The last few years have been especially hard on college students, who lost integral moments in their young lives,” said Dr. Thea Zunick, senior manager of community engagement for JED. “Neon Nights is a carefree, fun night for students to come together as a community and share perspectives and support with one another as a reminder that no one is alone. We can’t wait to recreate the same enthusiasm and engagement from our recent pilot at The University of Tampa at college campuses across the U.S.”
A new higher education survey of students, faculty, and staff revealed a further decline in mental health on campus. Additional research shows three out of every four college students experience moderate to severe psychological distress, with more than half reporting feelings of loneliness and 13% having serious suicidal thoughts.
“It was not easy for me because I didn’t feel like I fit in and I struggled, not only with my mental health, but academically,” said Jaya Kappaganthula. “Things didn’t really start to improve for me until I began prioritizing my emotional well-being and realizing that the challenges in my life only helped to enable me to be who I am today. Neon Nights is a way to support others who may be struggling and get them glowing through empathy, understanding, and love.”
The nation’s first Neon Nights kicked off in late March at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, with the help of 70 students.
JED is looking forward to making this event an annual occurrence at campuses across the country as it continues working with over 450 colleges/universities and over five million students across 40 states (including the District of Columbia), serving at least 25% of the higher education student population.
For more information on Neon Nights, visit or find us on Instagram @NeonNights_LetsGlow, @neonnights_tampa or @jedfoundation. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, donations, and more, contact JED’s Senior Manager of Community Engagement Dr. Thea Zunick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Jed Foundation
JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.
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Director, Public Relations
The Jed Foundation
About The University of Tampa
The University of Tampa is a private, comprehensive university located on 110 acres on the riverfront in downtown Tampa. Known for academic excellence, personal attention and real-world experience in its undergraduate and graduate programs, the University has about 200 programs of study and serves about 11,000 students from all 50 states and most of the world’s countries.
Director of Public Information and Publications
The University of Tampa