Student Mental Health Services Recognized by Prevention Organization
October 4, 2013 – Georgetown is one of only 30 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the JedCampus Seal, a recognition by a leading nonprofit organization that the university has comprehensive mental health promotion and suicide prevention programs on campus.
The Jed Foundation, whose mission is to protect the emotional health of college students, grants the seal. Phil and Donna Satow created the foundation after their son, Jed, committed suicide at the University of Arizona in 1998.
“The Jed Foundation wants to celebrate those schools that are working hard to support their student body – academically and emotionally – during a very critical time in their lives," said Phil Satow, also chair of the foundation’s board. "We know mental health care is essential to ensuring the success of our nation's young adults and wanted to publicly recognize those institutions showing a campuswide commitment to emotional health."
Self-Assessment and Evaluation
The seal, valid for two years, is part of the foundation's JedCampus nationwide program to facilitate schools’ ability to assess and enhance their mental health support system from a campus-wide perspective.
“The Satows have done a fantastic job of channeling their grief and their energy,” says Philip Meilman, Georgetown’s director of student health and a member of the foundation’s advisory board. “They established the foundation in his Jed’s memory specifically to prevent suicides on college campuses.”
Each school that eventually received the JedCampus Seal took a voluntary, online self-assessment reviewing campus mental health, outreach, education initiatives, interdepartmental collaboration, and suicide prevention programming.
After receiving the self-assessment surveys, The Jed Foundation compared the responses to “The Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention on College and University Campuses” developed by The Jed Foundation and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Result of Hard Work
“We are pleased to have this recognition by the Jed Foundation, one of the leading organizations in the country devoted to addressing college student mental health,” says James Welsh, Georgetown’s assistant vice president for student health. “The foundation’s recognition of Georgetown University is the result of hard work from all members of our campus safety net.”
Welsh says this includes residence life staff, deans and academic advisors, Office of Student Affairs professionals and others, especially counselors and physicians in the Counseling and Psychiatric Service, Health Education Services, and the Student Health Center.
“All of these individuals are committed to doing everything that we can do to ensure the safety of our students, and to provide them access to the care that they need,” he says.
Other schools receiving the seal include Yale, Cornell and Fordham universities.
Constellation of Services
At Georgetown, a constellation of services helps students with mental health issues. Since suicide is actually a rare event on college campuses, Meilman says the university focuses on identifying and supporting students who are suffering from significant depression or anxiety, excessive stress or academic difficulties, all of which are possible precursors to suicide.
The safety net approach trains members of the Georgetown community – deans, faculty members, residence life staff, chaplains-in-residence, other students and more – to recognize the signs of depression, anxiety, alcohol, drug or sexual abuse and other problems.
And since 2005, the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning at Georgetown has brought health and wellness issues into the classroom in a way that encourages students to reflect on their own attitudes, experiences and behaviors.
Eyes and Ears
Georgetown faculty members who teach Engelhard courses link academic coursework to health and wellness topics through readings, presentations, discussions led by campus health professionals and reflective writing assignments. The project is in keeping with the Jesuit tradition of care for the whole person.“The idea is to have as many people as possible on campus serve as eyes and ears on the ground,” Meilman says. “We want as many people as possible to know what services are available, how to identify students at risk, respond to them and make referrals to professionals on campus who can help them.”
Georgetown also provides sexual assault, alcohol and drug prevention programs as well as a protocol for students with mental health issues to leave school and reenter when they become well without hurting their academic careers.
“What The Jed Foundation is really looking at is the totality of the network of services and support on campus,” Meilman explains. “That’s what the JedCampus Seal is about – not just the counseling center or any particular center, but how all these pieces come together.”
Foundation officials believe the implementation of such campus-wide approaches to mental health promotion will lead to safer, healthier campuses.
“We are thrilled to be able to announce the first schools in the nation to receive the JedCampus Seal,” said John MacPhee, executive director of The Jed Foundation. “These schools have shown they employ a comprehensive, community-based approach to mental health care which will result in the identification of and care for more at-risk students.”