University of Rhode Island joins national JED Campus initiative to build on student mental health services

University assessing, enhancing mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention efforts in partnership with The Jed Foundation

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |
URI's 2017 Be 5K Run/Walk
ADVOCATING FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: Runners and walkers gather at the the start of URI's 2017 Be 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness. The event will be held again Sunday, March 31, at 11 a.m. on the Kingston Campus Quadrangle. URI photo by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I. —Feb. 11, 2019 – The University of Rhode Island has completed a comprehensive self-assessment as part of its participation in the JED Campus program in support of student well-being and mental health. The program is a nationwide initiative of The Jed Foundation, which is designed to help schools evaluate and strengthen their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems to ensure that schools have the strongest possible mental health safety nets.

URI joined JED Campus in October and assembled a campus committee made up of 23 members drawn from every part of the University community. In January, the group completed the self-assessment, which examined strengths and areas that need improvement. Among the key areas addressed during the self-study were the URI Counseling Center, Health Services, Public Safety, Student Affairs, Marketing and Communications, Academic Affairs, Administration and Finance and relationships with external health-care partners.

The committee is chaired by Dr. Christopher Nasin, medical director at Health Services, and Lindsey Anderson, Ph.D., director of the URI Psychological Consultation Center, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from URI.

Vice President for Student Affairs Kathy Collins enrolled URI in the JED Campus initiative to build on what URI is already doing to address mental health resources and services, a critical issue on campuses nationwide. Collins said integrating University services is a critical part of JED Campus.

Initiatives already in place at URI:

  • University of Rhode Island Health Services and South County Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds are collaborating to achieve zero suicides in Washington County. The work is funded by a $2 million federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant.
  • As of September 2018, the University is the first institution in the state to support the statewide implementation of the Campaign to Change Direction, which is being led locally by the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
  • In August 2017, the University of Rhode Island became the first university in the state to adopt Mental Health First Aid training, an eight-hour program that teaches people of all ages and backgrounds to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. URI’s 10 Mental Health First Aid instructors  have trained more than 800 faculty, staff and students from the URI community and are collaborating with the Community College of Rhode Island to provide training to members of its Student Affairs division.
  • On March 31, 2019, the Be 5K Run/Walk for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The Be 5K brings together students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and community members to support those affected by suicide, promote mental health resources and provide a thoughtful and uplifting experience for all involved. The event has raised thousands of dollars for the Heather Fund, a URI Foundation account set up by the parents of a URI student who took her own life. The Heather Fund benefits URI mental health programs.
  • In fall 2018, the University ran its third annual Fresh Check Day, a program of the Jordan Porco Foundation. Fresh Check Day is an uplifting mental health promotion and suicide prevention event that includes interactive booths, peer-to-peer messaging, support of multiple campus departments and groups, free food, entertainment and exciting prizes and giveaways.

“Our Counseling Center, Health Services and the many programs we now have in place to address mental health and suicide prevention do great work on behalf of our students and community, but the JED Campus provides us with comprehensive assessment and other tools to help us do an even better job in this most critical area,” Collins said. “We have put together an outstanding committee, headed by Dr. Nasin and Dr. Anderson, which I know will help us promote student success and holistic well being for our community.”

Nasin said the process is very much like a university accreditation. “Our self-assessment tells us we are doing well in some areas, but the JED Campus process asks, ‘How can we help you bolster and improve your efforts?’ We do have many resources, but this process will help us better integrate them so we eliminate any gaps.”

Nasin said he would like to see a more robust peer support group on campus. “One of the beautiful things about this (university) generation is it is very accepting and less worried about stigma,” Nasin said. “We ought to celebrate and draw on that strength,” Nasin said.  “Our human resources are our most valuable asset at the University. There should be no such thing as a ‘wrong door.’ Students in need should be able to be directed to the appropriate resources no matter where they turn.”

“Our campus has a tremendous amount to offer students, but not everyone knows about the available resources or how to access them,” Anderson said. “We have a responsibility to identify barriers to service utilization and creative ways to maximize the strengths of our services units – including more effective use of our excellent graduate training programs across campus.  Becoming a JED Campus illustrates URI’s commitment to the mental and behavioral health of its students by systematically examining current policies and procedures and comparing those against best-practice, ensuring that our efforts are meeting the needs of all students, and making sure that student voices are central to the process.”

JED Campuses embark on a multi-year strategic collaboration that assesses and enhances the work that is already being done and helps create positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. The program provides schools with a framework for supporting student mental health, as well as assessment tools, feedback reports, a strategic plan, and ongoing support from the JED Campus 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,” said John MacPhee, executive director of JED. “JED Campus helps schools by working with them to survey everything their 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.”

Upon completion of the assessment, JED Campus clinicians provide schools with a comprehensive report identifying successes and opportunities for enhancements. Over the course of four years, URI will collaborate with JED to help implement enhancements. All self-assessment responses and feedback reports are confidential.

For more information about JED Campus, visit www.jedcampus.org.

About The Jed Foundation

The Jed Foundation is a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. JED equips teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other; partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems; and encourages community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health.