Castleton University has partnered with The JED Foundation to assess and enhance mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts on campus. Castleton is one of six Vermont colleges and universities working with the organization to support student health and wellbeing.
Founded in 2000, The Jed Foundation helps young adults navigate the emotional challenges affiliated with adult development. JED partners with high schools, colleges, and universities across the country through their JED Campus initiative to equip teens and young adults with the means of overcoming these challenges and promoting community awareness for their emotional wellbeing.
“Young adulthood is a time of growth, learning, and exploration – but it can also be a time of significant change and intense challenges as young people transition into adulthood,” said JED Campus Advisor Sadaf Siddiqi. “With the right support and safety nets, the college years can be safer and more manageable.”
The organization works with college campuses by assessing each school’s programs, systems, and challenges. After giving feedback and recommendations, The JED Campus Team works with the school on a strategic plan for implementation over their partnership. A campus advisor offers ongoing support during this time, and schools can share information and resources through webinars, newsletters, an online resource center, and a discussion forum.
“We’re making a commitment as a university to support student mental health and emotional wellbeing, and we’re just looking at the ways in which we can support that best,” said Castleton Wellness Center Director Martha Coulter.
Coulter is facilitating JED’s efforts on campus alongside Victoria Angis, associate dean of students.
Last November, Castleton assessed student mental health through a Healthy Minds survey, which provides a detailed picture of mental health and related issues such as major depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal ideation in college student populations.
One of the University’s main priorities is additional training for faculty and staff on recognizing students in distress and how to refer them to the Wellness Center. Castleton is also participating in a drug mail-back program with the Vermont Department of Public Health, where students, faculty, and staff can mail their unused prescription drugs to be properly disposed of for free.
“We’ve been whittling away at the strategic plan, even though we’ve just really started this summer,” Angis said.
Castleton supports a multi-dimensional approach to student wellness, including a Student Wellness Task Force. The campus-wide team consists of students, faculty, staff, and community partners, and helps empower students to make educated and responsible decisions regarding their wellness and the wellness of others. The Task Force also consists of sub-committees, which work on communication, data, policies, programming, and training.
“It’s not just the task of a wellness center to initiate these kinds of programs, but the task of the entire university,” Coulter said.