Worcester State University, which is a JED Campus—a nationwide program initiative of The Jed Foundation (JED) designed to help schools evaluate and strengthen their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems—will offer first-year students online mental health and diversity programming, a companion program to the alcohol and drug education training all students must take.
The programming is made possible through a grant from the Worcester Together: Central Mass COVID-19 Fund, which was established by Greater Worcester Community Foundation, United Way of Central Massachusetts (UWCM), Worcester Together, and a coalition of generous donors.
The global pandemic will limit Worcester State’s in-person counseling sessions, although counselors will continue to use the telehealth model whenever possible. However, it goes without saying that interactions faculty and staff have with students are a source of outreach and referral.
“We need the entire campus community to be aware of and involved in conversations concerning mental health,” says Laura Murphy, associate dean of health and wellness, and director of counseling. “We know students communicate issues differently. How to effectively listen and successfully refer is of paramount importance.”
For faculty and staff, the Counseling Center updated its Recognize, Respond and Refer programming, which has been offered since 2015, to include COVID-19 and information related to racial trauma and mental health. And the Center for Teaching and Learning will offer a cross-divisional faculty panel discussion on the importance of trauma informed pedagogy, which is a direct outcome of the Safe Return to Campus subcommittee planning this summer.
“The impact of trauma on teaching and learning is more crucial now than ever before,” Murphy says.
Since the JED Foundation campus visit in spring 2019 and the development of Worcester State’s JED Mental Health strategic plan, the University has been actively implementing many of its recommendations. One of the most critical implementation strategies is inclusion of mental health with its University-wide strategic plan.
“Given the loss of many of Worcester State’s mental health and well-being in-person programs for first-year students, the online programs by EVERFI represents important population-level prevention efforts in the areas mental health, suicide prevention, sexual violence, substance abuse, and diversity and inclusion,” Murphy says.
Worcester State University is committed to the emotional well-being of its students as demonstrated through it process to become a JED Campus in 2018. JED campuses embark on a multi-year strategic collaboration that not only assesses and enhances the work that is already being done but also helps create positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. The program provides schools with a framework for supporting student mental health, as well as assessment tools, feedback reports, a strategic plan, and ongoing support from the JED Campus team. For more information about JED Campus, visit www.jedcampus.org .
In the photo: The Counseling Center staff, pre-pandemic.