Lauderdale recognized for mental health programming

The Jed Foundation granted Geneseo the JedCampus Seal on Feb. 7 for the school’s mental health and suicide awareness programming. The seal was awarded after an extensive self-assessment was made by the Health and Counseling Center, which was then reviewed by the Jed Foundation. The assessment looks at several different areas of evaluation, such as the school’s strategic planning, the identification of students at risk, the increasing of help-seeking behavior and crisis management.

Administrative Director of Student Health and Counseling Melinda Dubois said the school had been looking for a comprehensive self-evaluation, and JedCampus provided that opportunity.

“What we were looking [for] is an opportunity to evaluate the services we provide and the way our campus handles students who might be struggling … We’ve been talking about this for years, and JedCampus provided us a tool to do this assessment piece,” she said.

The self-assessment submitted by the college is compared to the Jed Foundation’s recommended practices outlined in “The Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention on College and University Campuses.” Receiving the seal shows that Geneseo excels in many of the evaluated areas but also outlines areas where Geneseo could improve its services.

“The foundation thought we were a fabulous job in many areas, but they also pointed out areas where we need to grow, areas we need to focus on,” Dubois said. “We are using this as a springboard to start doing some different initiatives, and how we deal with students who are struggling.”

One such area is “gatekeeper training.” The Suicide Prevention Resource Center defines gatekeeper training as “[recognizing] warning signs – behaviors and characteristics that might indicate elevated risk for suicidal behavior – and [knowing] how to intervene with a person they think might be at risk for suicide.”

The Health and Counseling Center already does a great deal of training with residence assistants, but it plans to expand the training to other departments.

“What we want to do more of is partnering with the academic side. How can we work closely with faculty members? How can we help them when they have someone in their class who is struggling?” Dubois said. She said that, while she can’t make everyone a counselor, “We all have an obligation to help each other.

“Many faculty have close relationships with their students, and we want to help them have some skills to help [students] who may be struggling,” Dubois added.

Laura Swanson is a staff counselor who initiated the participation in JedCampus program.

“I think the feedback we got from the survey was to keep doing things like that, to reach out to different departments – whether it’s academics or financial aid – giving people in those departments the tools to recognize when students are under stress and in need of assistance,” she said.

The approach of widespread gatekeeper training falls in line with the Health and Counseling Center’s philosophy, as Geneseo was commended for its campus-wide, community approach to promoting emotional health and suicide prevention. The center runs a program through Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development titled “Healthy Body, Healthy Minds,” which focuses on stress management and meditation.

On Feb. 7, the center launched its “Wellness in the House” initiative in Onondaga Hall, which places a satellite health center on Southside for students with self-care packages including wound care, cold medicine and condoms.

While Dubois said that “Wellness in the House” is mostly a response to the logistical difficulties of being located on Northside, she also wants new students to feel connected to the center.

“Slowly the residents of ‘Daga are learning about it, and we think that they really love it so far,” Dubois said.

“The whole overall message is that student mental health and well-being is a campus priority, and I think it has been on this campus for years. And we want to make people feel like they are partnering with our office, and that as a community we are paying attention,” she said.

The Health and Counseling Center is currently in strategic planning stages for new initiatives in response to the Jed Foundation’s recommendations.