In an email to the community today, Provost David Kotz ’86 shared the first in a series of messages highlighting Dartmouth’s well-being initiatives, including its partnership with the JED Foundation, and next steps.
“Dartmouth is committed to creating a culture of care and community and promoting the mental health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Kotz, whose email to students provided a list of support resources. “As part of this commitment, I write today to share progress on our comprehensive efforts to realize this goal.”
The message included an update on the four-year partnership Dartmouth initiated with the JED Foundation in 2021. Created to strengthen mental health and to try to prevent suicide at Dartmouth’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, the initiative followed a particularly difficult few years that included the loss of students, faculty, and staff amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kotz said.
The partnership has involved a self-study of policies and procedures, a survey known as the Healthy Minds Study, for students, and visits by JED representatives to each of Dartmouth’s schools.
JED compiled information and provided broad recommendations in such areas as academics, physical campus, crisis and health services, and student life, Kotz said. This fall, Dartmouth convened working groups to review the suggestions and develop “actionable next steps.”
The working groups are now beginning that work, which includes conducting listening sessions, advancing discussions across units, and developing communications.
Healthy Minds Study
In the email, Kotz highlighted key takeaways from the results of the Healthy Minds Study administered at Dartmouth in fall 2021 to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The response rate of 34.5%, representing 2,506 students, was higher than the national average, he noted.
Kotz also referenced data from the Healthy Minds Study Winter/Spring 2021 report (PDF), which includes national data from 103,748 students at 102 colleges and universities.
While comparisons with the national Healthy Minds Study dataset “can help us to understand Dartmouth’s experience within the context of a larger national mental health crisis, these comparisons are in no way intended to diminish the complex and deeply personal nature of pain and hurt that our Dartmouth students experience,” he said. “Nor do they lessen our commitment to the magnitude of work that lies before us as a community.”
The survey topics included mental health concerns, specifically depression and anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol consumption, and suicidal ideation. Another section addressed help-seeking behavior and perceptions of mental health stigma. The remaining two sections focused on community and belonging and financial status.
Additional data is available on Dartmouth’s JED website. The Healthy Minds survey will be readministered to Dartmouth students in the final year of the partnership, academic year 2024-25, to identify areas of growth and opportunities for continued improvement, Kotz said.
Actions and Next Steps
“Dartmouth is committed to providing the leadership, tools, and resources to promote student mental health and well-being,” Kotz said. “As we share the JED findings with the Dartmouth community and advance our work to strengthen student mental health and well-being, it is my hope that we will improve the entirety of the Dartmouth student experience inside and outside of the classroom.”
Next month, Kotz will summarize the JED Foundation’s recommendations and the ways that Dartmouth is working “to prioritize those recommendations and determine our next steps and actions,” he said.
Details will be posted to Dartmouth’s JED website as they become available.
Mental health support is available through Dartmouth 24/7 for students, faculty, and staff. Any Dartmouth student experiencing a mental health crisis can call the Counseling Center at 603-646-9442.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can also call or text the nationwide Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or use the online chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/.