Dozens Of Colleges Are Improving Mental Health Services For Their Students

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Two well-known mental health nonprofits recently announced the launch of a program that aims to strengthen mental health services on college campuses and better equip schools to prevent student deaths prescription drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, and suicide. So far, more than 50 colleges and universities have signed on.

Fifty five schools have confirmed their participation in the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program — a partnership between the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes mental health at college and universities, and The Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, an umbrella organization of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

John MacPhee, the Jed Foundation’s founder and CEO, said the participating schools will use The Campus Program Framework — a set of factors instrumental in promoting mental health, preventing suicide, and limiting substance use — as a guide in evaluating and improving campus programs. Focus areas in the framework include connectedness, student wellness, academic performance, lifestyle development, and developmental safety.

“We’re not saying these schools have the best programs in place today, but these are schools that are making the commitment to enter the process of continued improvement,” MacPhee told the Huffington Post.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has designated suicide as the primary cause of death among college students. Common risk factors for suicide among this demographic include substance abuse, eating disorders, previous suicide attempts, and self-injury without intent to die. The problem’s more apparent in cases where the student in question has a history of suicide in his or her family.

For students, many of whom may be away from home for the first time, financial stress and problems on campus can take a toll on one’s mental state, especially if they feel there’s no one with whom they can share their problems. In recent years, however, more young people have turned to professionals for help. According to the National Survey of College Counseling Centers, nine out of 10 college administrators have reported an increase in the number of students seeking mental health services.

But while research has shown that increasing access to effective health care, mental health care, and suicide prevention on campus could curb incidents of suicide, some people say that the stigmatization of students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical characteristics remains a significant hurdle.

That’s why proponents of the Campus Program Framework emphasize that campuses need to do a better job of facilitating relationships between students on campus, either through peer mentoring programs, fraternities and sororities, or cultural or religious based student organizations. Experts also agree that students’ emotional well-being should be require the attention of multiple campus stakeholders including upper administration — the governing body that’s responsible for establishing norms and raise awareness around campus services.

This interdisciplinary method of tackling mental health issues on campus bears a striking similarity to the collaborative care model — a program that spans across the entire health care process, integrating specialized mental health services with primary care and tailoring treatment so that it benefits not only the individual, but the entire family.

Support for techniques like the collaborative care model stems from a belief that all hands on deck are needed to support adolescents and young adults while their minds and bodies undergo developmental changes. For people like MacPhee, the same mantra holds true for college campuses across the nation.

“Our hope is most of the schools — thousands of schools nationwide — will join the program and participate in this systematic process of looking at the programming and sharing the learnings across the schools,” MacPhee told the Huffington Post. “If we see a great program at one of these universities, we’ll be sharing it with all the schools. A big part of what we want to do is socialize that.”