Progress continues to improve mental health on campus

Groups of faculty, staff and students are mobilizing to work on improvements big and small to campus mental health care in the second year of a wide-ranging evaluation of services offered to students at each of Dartmouth’s schools.

The work comes in the second year of Dartmouth’s four-year partnership with the Jed Foundation’s JED Campus program, a nonprofit organization that works to protect the emotional health of young adults.

The Foundation supports three different cohorts of students, each with different timelines for their work with Jed – the student population; students from the Geisel School of Medicine; and students in the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. The three cohorts were created based on the specific needs of each population and term schedules.

“There is no quick fix to the mental health issues that many young people experience at Dartmouth and across the country, and as a community we are coming together to make sure that all students have access to services and places where they feel welcome, and no one falls through the cracks,” says Mark Reid, director of health services at Dartmouth.

In this second year of the partnership, six working groups are beginning to act on Jed’s recommendations aimed at strengthening access to mental health, wellbeing and belonging.

The work includes creating an online dashboard that will include reports and survey data from Jed, as well as goals and timelines for each of the workgroups. While the working groups were created as part of the student body, representatives from each of the groups participated in the groups. The two groups of graduates expect to learn where students’ needs overlap so they can come up with recommendations and solutions for all students.

The working groups—with representation from students, faculty, and staff—are organized around key themes: communications, academics, student experience, clinical infrastructure, crisis response, and the physical campus environment. Each is charged with recommending changes to strengthen services, improve programs, and increase resilience in the Dartmouth community.

The importance of this work was not appreciated by the recent deaths of several community members, Reid says.

In addition to Jed’s current work, Dartmouth added several new mental health offerings this fall. Starting in September, Dartmouth made the mindfulness and meditation app Headspace available to all students and staff and is offering a mindfulness teacher training session Oct. 13-15. From November, teletherapy services will be available to all students through the mental health provider You will. Additionally, students now have a new wellness education requirement starting with the class of 2026.

On October 21, the community will mark a Day of Caring, designed to prioritize mental health and wellbeing and provide a space for people to grieve recent events.

Dartmouth’s work with Jed began in fall 2021 with a student survey called Healthy Minds about the campus climate and mental health resources available on campus. Over the past year, Dartmouth convened committees of students, faculty, staff and senior leadership from each of the three cohorts to complete a comprehensive self-study of mental health policies and procedures.

In a series of site visits, Jed advisors met with the groups and other stakeholders to come up with recommendations for each cohort. Each group will prioritize their list of recommendations and select items to complete this year.

Elements of the student cohort include work already underway, such as working with the designers of the North End Student Apartment Project and Residential Life staff to build a sense of community and well-being into the design of the project; moving the physical education graduation requirement to a wellness education requirement with expanded course options; and expanding a suicide prevention program, Dartmouth Cares, with training offered to students, faculty and staff.

“The formation of the task forces stems from all the work we did last year and is really the next phase of the process to focus on changes that can have a positive impact on the well-being of everyone on this campus,” Reid says.

The groups are:

Health, Wellbeing and Crisis Communicationswho is charged with improving the way Dartmouth communicates about mental health and wellness across platforms and audiences by tracking and dispelling misinformation and ensuring that mental health messages are disseminated throughout the institution.

Co-chairs are Elizabeth Ellis, director of communications for student affairs, and Marianne Thomson, associate dean for student affairs.

Aligning academia with mental health and wellbeingwhich will support the mental health and well-being of faculty and staff, educate them about the resources available to students, and promote awareness of mental health and well-being in the academic experience.

The leaders are Rebecca Biron, director of the Leslie Center for the Humanities, professor of Spanish and Portuguese and chair of the theater department, and Alison May, associate dean and senior director of Student Accessibility Services.

Integrating well-being and belonging into the student experiencewhich aims to strengthen mental health support in home life, athletics, student organizations, first-year orientation and other extracurricular programs.

Co-chairs are Ian Connell, senior associate director of athletics for Peak Performance, and Jessica Chiriboga ’24, vice president of Dartmouth’s student government.

Improvement of clinical infrastructurewhich will review medical and mental health operations and resources, make recommendations to increase the availability, accessibility and navigation of mental health services, and promote help-seeking behavior among students.

Co-chairs are Heather Earle, director of the Dartmouth Student Counseling Center, and Pulkit Nagpal ’23, president of the Dartmouth Mental Health Alliance.

Crisis response policieswhich will strengthen support for students on and returning from medical leave and review and recommend improvements in Dartmouth’s public responses to crises.

Co-chairs are Anne Hudak, associate dean of Student Support Services, and Eric Ramsey, associate dean of Student Life.

Well-being and safety in the physical environment, which will assess the physical campus to recommend safety, inclusion and health improvements and develop plans to assess and improve campus safety over the long term.

Co-leaders are Douglas Babcock, associate director of safety and security, and Chris Johnson, facilities manager for residential operations.

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