Groups of faculty, staff, and students are mobilizing to work on improvements large and small to mental health care across campus in the second year of a wide-ranging assessment of services offered to students in each of Dartmouth's schools.
The work comes in year two of Dartmouth's four-year partnership with the Jed Foundation's JED Campus Program—a nonprofit organization that works to protect the emotional health of young adults.
The foundation is supporting three distinct cohorts of students, each of which have different timelines for their work with Jed—the undergraduate population; Geisel School of Medicine students; and students at Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, Thayer School of Engineering, and Tuck School of Business. The three cohorts were created based on each population's specific needs and term schedules.
"There is no quick fix to the mental health struggles that many young people are experiencing, at Dartmouth and nationwide, and as a community we are coming together to make sure that all students have access to services and spaces where they feel welcome, and that nobody falls through the cracks," says Mark Reed, director of the Dartmouth Health Service.
In this second year of the partnership, six working groups are beginning to act on recommendations from Jed aimed at strengthening access to mental health, well-being, and belonging.
The work includes creation of an online dashboard that will include reports and survey data from Jed as well as goals and timelines for each of the work groups. While the working groups were set up as part of the undergraduate cohort, representatives from each of the cohorts are taking part in the groups. The two graduate school cohorts expect to learn where students' needs overlap so they can come up with recommendations and solutions for all students.
The work groups—with representation from students, faculty, and staff—are organized around key themes: communications, academics, student experience, clinical infrastructure, crisis response, and the physical campus environment. Each is charged with recommending changes to strengthen services, improve programs, and increase resiliency throughout the Dartmouth community.
The importance of this work has been unscored by the recent deaths of several community members, Reed says.
In addition to the ongoing Jed work, Dartmouth has added several new mental health offerings this fall. Since September, Dartmouth has made the mindfulness and meditation app Headspace available to all students and employees and is offering a mindfulness teacher training session on Oct. 13 to 15. Beginning in November, teletherapy services will be available to all students through the mental health provider Uwill. Also, undergraduates now have a new wellness education requirement, beginning with the Class of 2026.
On Oct. 21, the community will observe a Day of Caring intended to prioritize mental health and well-being and to provide space for people to grieve recent events.
Dartmouth's work with Jed began in fall 2021 with a student survey, called Healthy Minds, about campus climate and mental health resources available on campus. Over the course of the past year, Dartmouth convened committees of students, faculty, staff, and senior leadership from each of the three cohorts to complete a comprehensive self-study of mental health policies and procedures.
In a series of site visits, Jed advisers met with the groups and other stakeholders to come up with recommendations for each cohort. Each group will prioritize its list of recommendations and pick items to complete this year.
Items on the undergraduate cohort include work that is already underway, such as work with planners of the North End student apartment project and Residential Life staff to build a sense of community and well-being into the project's design; transitioning the physical education graduation requirement to a wellness education requirement with expanded course options; and expansion of a suicide prevention program, Dartmouth Cares, with training offered for students, faculty, and staff.
"The formation of the work groups grows out of all the work we did last year and is really the next phase of the process, which is to focus on changes that can have a positive impact on the well-being of everyone on this campus," Reed says.
The groups are:
Communications for Health, Well-Being, and Crisis, which is charged with improving how Dartmouth communicates about mental health and wellness across a variety of platforms and audiences, tracking and dispelling misinformation, and making sure that mental health messages are infused throughout the institution.
Co-leads are Elizabeth Ellis, director of communications for Student Affairs, and Marianne Thomson, associate dean of Student Affairs.
Alignment of Academics With Mental Health and Well-Being, which will support the mental health and well-being of faculty and staff, educate them about resources available for students, and encourage attention to mental health and well-being in the academic experience.
Co-leads are Rebecca Biron, director of the Leslie Center for the Humanities, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and chair of the Department of Theater, and Alison May, assistant dean and senior director of Student Accessibility Services.
Integration of Well-Being and Belonging Into the Student Experience, which aims to strengthen supports for mental health in residential life, athletics, student organizations, first-year orientation, and other extracurricular programming.
Co-leads are Ian Connole, senior associate athletics director for Peak Performance and Jessica Chiriboga '24, vice president of Dartmouth Student Government.
Clinical Infrastructure Enhancement, which will review medical and mental health operations and resources, make recommendations to increase the availability, accessibility, and navigability of mental health services, and promote help-seeking behavior among students.
Co-leads are Heather Earle, director of the Dartmouth Student Counseling Center, and Pulkit Nagpal '23, president of the Dartmouth Mental Health Union.
Crisis Response Policies, which will strengthen support for students on and returning from medical leave and review and recommend improvements to Dartmouth's public responses to crises.
Co-leads are Anne Hudak, associate dean of Student Support Services, and Eric Ramsey, associate dean for Student Life.
Well-being and Safety in the Physical Environment, which will assess the physical campus to recommend improvements for safety, inclusivity, and wellness and develop plans to assess and improve campus safety over the long term.
Co-leads are Douglas Babcock, associate director of Safety and Security, and Chris Johnson, facilities manager for Residential Operations.