WMU becomes part of national student mental health effort

Contact: Paula M. Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As part of its Success at WMU initiative that will launch with the fall 2018 incoming class of new students, Western Michigan University has completed its initial membership steps to become a JED Campus, putting a campuswide focus on student well-being and mental health.

WMU is now one of nearly 200 campuses across the country enrolled in the four-year-old national initiative that serves more than 2 million college students. The JED Campus program is designed to increase student resilience and decrease the two leading causes of death among young adults--accidents, including those caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning, and suicide.

To begin assessing the match between WMU's level of services and the mental health needs of its students, the University took part in a "Healthy Minds Study" during the spring semester as well as a baseline assessment of services. Through the online survey administered in April, some 4,000 WMU students were asked to share their attitudes, behaviors and awareness of mental health issues.

Becoming a JED Campus was the focus of a single submission in a call for transformational ideas issued last fall by WMU President Edward Montgomery. Several of the more than 60 ideas submitted for funding, including the JED Campus proposal, ultimately became part of one major campus initiative called Success at WMU. Preparations have been underway since January to welcome all new students to campus in the fall with a solid program in place to ensure academic success. The program includes a peer mentor for every incoming student to provide new students with a strong and early connection to the University.

"We are thrilled to become a JED Campus because our students' success is our No. 1 priority. Grit and resiliency play a key role in performance. This program enhances our ability to improve student emotional and mental health," Montgomery says.

Dr. Gary H. Bischof, dean of WMU's Lee Honors College, is the University's point person on the JED Campus portion of the Success at WMU initiative. Bischof and Dr. Suzie Nagel-Bennett, dean of students, are co-chairing WMU's 19-member JED Campus team, composed of representatives from across campus. Bischof says WMU's entry into the JED effort makes it one of 15 Michigan colleges and universities that will operate in the JED program as a Michigan cohort, and the institutions involved will gather periodically to share resources and effective practices. WMU's four-year commitment to the program, he says, will revolve around student awareness of the help that is available to them.

"Increased awareness and use of services and a more supportive campus climate are among our expected outcomes," Bischof says. "We want to help our students develop the behaviors most often associated with grit and resilience."

In addition to the survey just completed, the JED Campus program will include a second survey near the end of the relationship between WMU and the program. Additional benefits of being part of the program include:

  • Assistance in building a multidisciplinary campuswide team to direct the work.
  • A baseline assessment of campus systems, policies and programs.
  • An on-campus visit by JED Campus program experts and ongoing technical assistance.
  • Development of a strategic plan with objectives and detailed action steps.
  • Membership in a JED Campus Learning Community offering access to webinars.
  • Student access to an online resource called ULifeline for help in accessing services.
  • A final year of focus on sustaining gains made over the course of the effort.

About JED

JED is a national nonprofit foundation that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide among the nation's teens and young adults. JED partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention programming and systems. The partnerships focus on equipping teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy, thriving adults and encouraging community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.