OSU enhancing mental health awareness, resources with partnership
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Since the fall of 2019, Oklahoma State University has partnered with the JED Foundation to improve campus mental health resources.
The JED Foundation is a nationally recognized nonprofit devoted to mental health and suicide prevention in teens and young adults. The JED Campus program is a four-year partnership that evaluates and builds on programs, policies and services aimed at improving mental health, fighting substance abuse and preventing suicides.
Dr. Doug Hallenbeck, OSU vice president for student affairs, said improving options and normalizing the conversation surrounding mental health is critical.
“We have seen here at OSU, as has the entire country, an increase in mental health concerns. We have also seen an increase in the willingness of students to seek out opportunities to strengthen their own mental health,” Hallenbeck said. “It is imperative that we review our mental health programs, initiatives and services in a strategic, planful manner that addresses this topic in terms of the current state but that is also nimble enough to evolve as students evolve. The culture of care that we are creating here on-campus focuses on providing the tools and skills we all need to care for one another. That is the Cowboy way.”
Being a JED campus began with the Healthy Minds Study, a survey completed by more than 2,000 students that provided baseline data on mental health variables including depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, lifetime diagnoses, counseling engagement and perception of campus services. That was followed by the JED Campus Assessment Survey that reviewed OSU’s programs, services, policies, procedures and communication strategies.
As part of the program, OSU formed the Campus Mental Health Coalition in the fall of 2019 to act as an advising group. Dr. Todd Misener, OSU’s chief wellness officer, said the coalition has members from across campus, including the president’s office, student associations, Counseling Services, Housing and Residential Life and more.
"As a result of what we have learned through the JED campus process, we created a strategic plan that is already having a positive impact on campus,” Misener said. “Two of the main areas of focus are mental health training and resource awareness.”
Misener said the coalition has developed and launched online mental health training for faculty and staff. Several other such gatekeeper trainings are available to teach students and employees how to spot signs of distress and how to offer help. All the resources available from training to counseling options are being compiled and promoted through a comprehensive mental health action plan.
“Collaborations with the Student Government Association’s mental health initiatives and the new student mental health promotion group Active Minds have been developed and will expand,” Misener said. “We’ve also developed and launched a comprehensive mental health action plan that includes a dedicated website, a video series and an awareness campaign. It’s impressive to me what this very focused effort has yielded so far, and there’s still more to come.”
Chris Barlow, senior director of University Health, Counseling and Accessibility Services, said the strategic plan should be fully implemented in the next two years. The Healthy Minds Study will be readministered in 2023 to measure changes in the overall campus mental health climate.
“This process is more important now than ever before,” Barlow said. “It was fortunate we chose to begin the process before the arrival of the pandemic, which brought on untold additional stressors for our students and staff. We are excited about what’s been accomplished so far.”
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