Published: September 13, 2018

The University of Tampa is launching a four-year partnership with The Jed Foundation (JED), a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting emotional health and preventing suicide among young adults. By becoming a JED Campus, UT hopes to prevent the two leading causes of death in young adults — unintentional injuries, including those caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning, and suicide.

“We are committed to helping our students work toward their potential. We also recognize that mental health needs are directly related to academic success, as students need to be well in order to do well,” said Gina Firth, UT’s associate dean of wellness. “Our partnership with JED comes at a very important time when mental health and substance abuse issues are increasing on a national level. We want to make sure we are providing all of the necessary support for our students’ well-being.”

As a member of the program, UT will work to assess and enhance the policies, programming, services and outreach aimed at supporting students’ emotional well-being and preventing suicide and substance abuse. The multi-year strategic collaboration not only assesses and enhances the work that is already being done, but helps create positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. JED Campus provides UT with a framework for supporting student mental health, as well as assessment tools, feedback reports and ongoing technical assistance from the JED Campus team of clinicians.

UT is the first JED Campus in Florida. Other JED Campuses include Elon University, Davidson College, Boston University, Princeton University and Michigan State University.

According to the National College Health Assessment, more than half of college students experienced "overwhelming anxiety" at some point in the past year, 32 percent reported feeling "so depressed that it was difficult to function" and 8 percent reported seriously considering suicide.

The JED Campus process utilizes the Healthy Minds Study assessment that will survey UT’s approximately 9,200 students on things like their mental health status, resiliency and coping strategies, as well as the campus culture and climate. In addition, the study will include questions to identify the climate for diversity and inclusion.

Given that emotional well-being is central to student success, JED’s approach emphasizes that students’ mental health must be a campus-wide responsibility involving departments and stakeholders across campus. As a JED Campus, UT has created an interdisciplinary team consisting of senior administration, faculty, students, student affairs professionals, Campus Safety and others to work on campus-wide strategies.

This fall, UT will conduct the Healthy Minds Study with the entire student population to gather data on different areas, such as resiliency and coping patterns, mental health status and help-seeking behavior. In addition, a self-study will be conducted to gather UT-specific information, which will be gathered together in a comprehensive report by JED Campus to guide the strategic planning.

“We have many excellent programs and offerings at UT, but this will give us the opportunity to do a deep dive to see what is working and what we may need to add to support our student needs,” Firth said.

Advisers from JED will visit UT to meet with students, faculty and staff, and will assist with strategic planning and implementation. At the end of the program, the initial assessments will be performed again to assess and measure change.

“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. “We believe that the implementation of a campus-wide approach to mental health will lead to safer, healthier communities, and likely greater student retention.”