FHSU joins national initiative to promote student mental health

FHSU University Relations and Marketing

HAYS, Kan. — Almost a third of students in U.S. colleges and universities reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function,” and 8 percent reported seriously considering suicide, in the 2013 data of the ongoing National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association.

Against that backdrop, Fort Hays State University has announced that it has joined The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program in support of student well-being and mental health. The program is designed to help schools prevent the two leading causes of death in young adults — unintentional injuries, including those caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning, and suicide.

FHSU is among the first cohort to join The Campus Program, which is designed to help colleges and universities assess and enhance mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programming.

“Fort Hays State has been actively promoting health and wellness initiatives through workshops and presentations for some time,” said Dr. Kenton Olliff, assistant vice president of student affairs.

“Three years ago, we implemented At Risk online gatekeeper training to help students, faculty and staff recognize and assist students in distress,” he said. “With our participation in The Campus Program, we will be able to enhance the services we offer as we continue to promote student wellness.”

Participating schools make a four-year commitment to work the program to evaluate and identify opportunities to augment these activities on campus. The Campus Program provides schools with a framework for supporting student mental health as well as assessment tools, feedback reports and ongoing technical assistance from The Campus Program team. The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program grants a membership seal to all schools that participate.

Membership in the program demonstrates Fort Hays State’s continuing commitment to promoting emotional well-being programming for all students.

“For the past several years, we have been working to educate students through class presentations, workshops and other programming to increase awareness of the importance of emotional and physical wellness,” said Gina Smith, director of FHSU’s Kelly Center, which offers support services for students, faculty and staff. “We are excited to partner with other campus constituents to move forward with this new initiative.”

Services provided by the Kelly Center are academic support and tutoring for general education classes; personal counseling for students, faculty and staff; alcohol and drug counseling; standardized testing services; and disability student services.

“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 The Jed Foundation. “The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program 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.”

The Campus Program is a joint initiative of The Jed Foundation, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting emotional health and preventing suicide among college students, and the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative, which works to improve the health and well-being of people throughout the United States across all generations.

Fort Hays State’s participation in The Campus Program begins with establishing an interdisciplinary, campuswide mental health task force to assess, support and implement program improvements and taking a confidential self-assessment survey on its mental health promotion and substance abuse and suicide prevention programming.

At Fort Hays State, the task force is 16 people, comprising administrators, faculty members and students. It will be co-chaired by Olliff, Smith and Dr. Leo Herrman, associate professor of psychology.

Herrman and the Department of Psychology brought the program to FHSU as an exemplar program with an $18,039 Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative grant awarded by Headquarters Inc. of Lawrence, which was funded by a Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Grant and the Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Department of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Center for Mental Health Services.

“The main focus of that grant was to reduce suicides on college campuses by enhancing mental health services and providing a safe campus environment,” said Herrman. “This blended well with the Jed and Clinton Foundation’s focus and provided FHSU with resources to do a thorough review of all of its programs related to the health and safety of its students.”

After the survey is completed, the responses will be reviewed by The Campus Program team in the context of the program’s framework — a comprehensive set of recommended practices. FHSU will then receive customized feedback and suggestions for enhancements as well as direct support with the planning process.

For more information on The Campus Program, visit www.TheCampusProgram.org.

More information on The Jed Foundation is at www.jedfoundation.org, and information on the Clinton Foundation is at www.clintonfoundation.org.

For more information on FHSU’s participation in The Campus Program, contact:
Dr. Kenton Olliff, assistant vice-president for student affairs, kolliff@fhsu.edu, 785-628-4401
Dr. Leo Herrman, associate professor of psychology, lpherrman@fhsu.edu, 785-628-4195
Gina Smith, director of Kelly Center, gsmith@fhsu.edu, 785-628-4401

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