Fifty-five colleges and universities have signed on to participate in a program run by two prominent nonprofits to examine how well the schools are handling student mental health on campus, the organizations plan to announce Wednesday.
The schools on the list are taking part in the The Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, a partnership of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes mental health at colleges and universities, and The Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, which is part of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The program is designed to help universities prevent students from dying by prescription drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, or by suicide.
As part of the program, each college will conduct a self-assessment survey of its programming around mental health promotion and substance abuse and suicide prevention. The program will provide assessment tools and reports to the schools over a four-year period.
John MacPhee, executive director and CEO of The Jed Foundation, explained to The Huffington Post that eventually the schools will work to implement policies and practices to address a checklist laid out by the Jed Foundation. The program's framework encompasses everything from medical leave policies and functional "at-risk" or "behavioral intervention" teams, to making sure that campus housing facilities include features to hamper suicide attempts.
The list of schools, which may grow, includes elite and Ivy League universities, state schools and lesser-known institutions.
"We are thrilled to announce the first group of schools in the nation to join The Campus Program, and to celebrate these institutions for their recognition of mental health as an essential element of student education, development and maturation," said Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, in a statement.
Participating schools may or may not have exceptional policies and procedures already in place to deal with student mental health, but the goal is ultimately that these schools will represent the gold standard for such policies in higher education.
"We're not saying these schools have the best programs in place today, but these are schools that are making the commitment to enter the process of continued improvement," said MacPhee.
The Jed Foundation also said it is working to identify those schools, on or off the list, that it believes can model the best mental health services.
"Our hope is most of the schools -- thousands of schools nationwide -- will join the program and participate in this systematic process of looking at the programming and sharing the learnings across the schools," MacPhee said. "If we see a great program at one of these universities, we'll be sharing it with all the schools. A big part of what we want to do is socialize that."
According to the National Survey of College Counseling Centers, sponsored by the American College Counseling Association, more than 9 in 10 administrative heads of college and university counseling centers have reported an increase in the number of students who have come to campus counseling centers for help with psychological problems, and nearly half have noticed an increase in student self-injury behaviors, like cutting. At the same time, administrators say they're under more stress themselves, because of the increased demand on staff time due to the "growing complexity of client problems."
Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, told HuffPost that mental health on campus has become one of the top concerns nationwide for college officials, along with sexual assault.
A complete list of the initial 55 colleges and universities participating in the Campus Program:
Azusa Pacific University
California Institute of Technology
California State University - Chico
Marymount Manhattan College
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Montana State University
New York University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Pennsylvania State University - Altoona
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
Saint Francis University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
St. Cloud State University
Stevens Institute of Technology
State University College at Geneseo, State University of New York
State University College at Oneonta, State University of New York
The Ohio State University
Three Rivers Community College
University at Albany, State University of New York
University of Arizona
University of California – Los Angeles
University of Central Oklahoma
University of Illinois - Champagne Urbana
University of Pennsylvania
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
University of South Carolina
University of West Georgia
Wake Forest University
Washington University in St. Louis
Western Oklahoma State College
Worcester Polytechnic Institute