10 July 2023 HWS and JED Partnership Supports Student Mental Health

HWS has begun a four-year assessment to enhance campus mental health services in partnership with the JED Foundation.

Last fall, Hobart and William Smith began the four-year process to become a JED Campus to enhance the Colleges’ resources for student well-being and mental health. With support from Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Cassandra Naylor Brooks ’89 and Trustee Dr. Paula Miltenberger P’23, HWS partnered with the Jed Foundation (JED), which equips more than 400 campus communities across the country with evidence-based resources to create a culture of care in which all students feel seen and supported.

“I can't stress enough how crucial holistic mental health support is for not just our students, but our entire HWS community,” says Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Becca Barile. “Over the past year, our partnership with JED has helped us, as a campus, be better ready to support our community members. We want to equip everyone on our campus with the tools and knowledge to help themselves and their peers, and to ensure they know the resources available to them.”

JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults, partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems.

To become a JED Campus, HWS is engaging in a multi-year strategic collaboration to assess and enhance current mental health resources on campus, and develop positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. The program provides a framework for supporting student mental health, as well as assessment tools, feedback reports, a strategic plan and ongoing support from the JED Higher Education team. 

“The college years are the age when many mental health issues first manifest, and it can be a time of significant stress and pressure,” says JED Chief Executive Officer John MacPhee. “JED Campus helps schools by working with them to survey everything their college or university is doing to support their students’ emotional health and find practical ways to augment these efforts in a comprehensive way. We believe that the implementation of a campus-wide approach to mental health will lead to safer, healthier communities, and likely greater student retention.”

In the fall 2022 semester, a campus committee was established and introduced to the JED Campus assessment process. This coming fall, JED will visit campus, meeting with students, faculty and staff, and will provide the committee with recommendations that come out of the JED comprehensive assessment. Over the course of the next three years, HWS will collaborate with JED to identify and implement enhancements.

Throughout the past academic year, the Colleges also conducted the national HealthyMinds survey for students, faculty and staff, which evaluated knowledge of campus mental and emotional health resources and provided screening tools for various mental health concerns. The results will help the Colleges tailor programming and resources to campus needs.

Barile says these newest programs are another key step in supporting students’ mental health needs. “They build upon Campus Life’s Personal Empowerment Institute, services provided by the Counseling Center and our introduction of Mantra Health, which allows students to access clinicians from all over New York state from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, for our students.”

Together, Barile says, this work “is a testament to our commitment to our students' emotional well-being and helps HWS create awareness and empathy within our community, so our students feel supported and empowered to navigate challenges.”