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Alliance with JED Foundation bolsters students’ mental health

Pennsylvania College of Technology recently completed a four-year partnership with JED Campus, a national collegiate mental health program designed to guide colleges through a collaborative process of building comprehensive systems, programs and policies.

JED sealPenn College began working with the JED Foundation as part of the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a three-year grant awarded to the college in 2015.

JED’s Comprehensive Approach has helped the college to build on existing student mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts, providing a framework to critically examine institutional policies and programs, and to establish a comprehensive strategic plan to more effectively address the growing mental health needs of students.

The Comprehensive Approach’s areas of focus include developing life skills, promoting social connectedness, identifying students at risk, increasing help-seeking behavior, providing mental health and substance abuse services, following crisis management procedures, and restricting access to potentially lethal means.

“The JED Campus’s Comprehensive Approach provided us with an incredibly valuable framework that guided our daily work,” said Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs.

“Our process, which was led by Dr. Kathy Zakarian, director of counseling services, has resulted in profound changes on our campus and in our approach to student well-being.  Our campus is a safer and more supportive environment thanks to our partnership with JED and the commitment and hard work of our outstanding faculty and staff.”

Penn College formed a multidisciplinary team to work on the initiative. The nonprofit JED organization helped the college identify areas for improvement, which included development of a postvention plan, a Community Peer Educator program and resources to support at-risk students.

“Emotional health is viewed as a campuswide responsibility,” Zakarian said, “and this program has enabled the college to receive ongoing support from a variety of campus stakeholders as we continue to implement best practices related to mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse.”

“I applaud the ongoing, collaborative efforts of our faculty and staff to ensure students have networks of support,” added Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs and provost.  “Through multiple trainings, special projects and open dialogue, our colleagues are learning and implementing strategies of support, and are discussing the effects of mental health complexities. While there has always been a high level of care and concern for our students on campus, more of us are seeing the essential role we all play in checking in with our students and making timely referrals when those complexities emerge.”

As an outgrowth of its work, the college is utilizing resources from other JED programs and partnerships to continue promoting student mental health. The Set to Go program – an online guide to assist students and parents transition to college – is being heavily promoted during the Connections summer orientation program.

Additionally, Zakarian noted, Penn College is participating in two pilot programs: Seize the Awkward, a campaign providing young adults with a variety of resources on how to initiate and sustain a conversation around mental health; and the Equity in Mental Health Framework, in partnership with the Steve Fund, which developed 10 recommendations and implementation strategies to help colleges better support the mental health of students of color.

“We are looking forward to continuing these efforts in the 2019-20 academic year and remain committed to ensuring that we are following best practices in relation to emotional health promotion within our campus community,” she said.

For more information about The JED Foundation, formed to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for the nation’s teens and young adults, visit the organization’s website.

For more about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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