May is Mental Health Awareness month, and the Counseling Center at A&M-Commerce is taking the opportunity to highlight its efforts to improve mental health initiatives on campus, including its partnership with JED Campus.
JED Campus was introduced to A&M-Commerce in fall 2018 as a way to support student well-being and mental health.
The college years—when many mental health issues first present themselves—can be particularly tough on young adults as they juggle classes, homework, extracurricular activities, work and relationships. Dr. Nick Patras, director of the Counseling Center at A&M-Commerce, says that nearly 40% of college students experience a significant mental health issue.
JED Campus is a national program designed to ensure schools have the strongest possible mental health safety nets by evaluating and strengthening their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs. The program, offered by the JED Foundation, focuses on decreasing suicides, increasing help-seeking behavior and lowering substance abuse numbers. Donna and Phil Satow founded the organization in 2000 after losing their youngest son Jed to suicide.
Patras said the first year of the program focused on forming an advisory group and assessing mental health resources available at A&M-Commerce. After formalizing the agreement with JED Campus, Patras formed the JED Campus advisory group, and the first of two student surveys were administered through student Listserv in spring 2019. Patras also explained that continually monitoring student input regarding mental health support at the university is an important factor.
Utilizing an extensive report from the advisory group and results of the student survey, JED Campus provided the university with comprehensive analysis of mental health resources available on campus at the time, ultimately identifying 74 areas of success or opportunities for enhancement.
“JED gave us our road map,” said Patras. “It has given us the opportunity to strategically assess what we're doing well and where we can improve.”
Additional faculty and staff were added to the campus' JED Campus advisory group in fall 2019, which then began reviewing the seven strategic planning areas outlined by JED Campus. They ultimately narrowed their focus to three subcommittees—social connectedness, identifying students at risk and increasing help-seeking behavior.
This spring, the group met to review progress of the subcommittees and determine their work for year two of the four-year plan, in order to present recommendations and gain support from the university community for future mental health initiatives.
Patras says the JED Campus program is about increasing awareness among college students regarding mental health issues and the resources available to them. “We want to ensure that there's enough education on campus to erase the stigma surrounding mental health issues,” said Patras. “It's actually a sign of strength to ask for help.”
The A&M-Commerce Counseling Center is located in the Halladay Student Services building in room 203. The center staffs eight licensed clinicians plus auxiliary staff. During the 2018-19 academic year the center provided 3,518 appointments to over 650 clients. They are available 24-hours a day at 903.886.5145.
Follow the counseling center on Twitter.