Widener Enters Partnership with National Leader on Young Adult Mental Health
A new partnership between Widener University and The Jed Foundation (JED) will place greater emphasis on mental health at the university and solidify Widener’s commitment to this vital component of well-being.
The JED Foundation was created in 2000 to protect emotional health and prevent suicide among teens and young adults. It has grown to be the nation’s leading organization dedicated to young adult mental health, and counts lowering suicide risk and substance misuse as central to its mission.
The new relationship means Widener has become a “JED campus” institution, which brings multiple benefits to students, faculty and staff. JED will partner with the university to assess Widener’s needs and develop a customized strategic plan that builds on Widener’s strengths and addresses shortcomings. The plan will guide the university in implementing tools, strategies and techniques designed to improve student mental health and increase the sense of belonging and connection at Widener.
“We are natural partners. We want the same things – students who feel healthy, connected and supported. This partnership is significant. It will lead to positive, lasting, systemic improvement for our university,” said Jennifer Horowitz, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Widener, who is co-leading the initiative with Geraldine Bloemker, associate provost for student success.
The four-year partnership will begin with the Healthy Minds Survey that launches this month. Full-time graduate and undergraduate students taking in-person classes and full-time employees – all across Widener’s three campuses – will receive a survey link in their Widener email beginning Jan. 30.
For student takers, the free, confidential survey will assess mental-health and related needs, student familiarity with Widener mental health resources, and how to access and use those resources. For employee takers, the survey will seek to understand faculty and staff well-being, attitudes, knowledge and experiences.
“The survey will give us clear data on what we’re doing well and strategic steps for improvement,” Bloemker said.
JED partners with Healthy Minds to administer the survey. It will take approximately 25 minutes to complete and be available through Feb. 27. It can be completed over multiple sittings. The university recognizes the survey is comprehensive, and strongly encourages the community to invest time to provide feedback. Widener will award gift cards and technology prizes through drawings available to those who complete it.
“The survey really kick starts this whole process for Widener, and it is vital for the university community to come together and provide their feedback. Voices matter. They will drive progress, improvement and innovation,” Bloemker said.
JED will help Widener analyze the survey data. In addition, partners from the foundation will visit Widener over multiple days this spring for a thorough evaluation of the university’s strengths and student mental health needs. All of the data assessed together will help JED and Widener collaborate on an action plan that enhances what’s working and addresses unmet needs. As a national leader, JED will help Widener make informed decisions and enhance policies, programs and resources with insight to best practices.
Undergraduate nursing student Taylor Wise, a member of Widener’s Active Minds student organization, said she was excited to learn of the partnership. Students aren’t always aware they are struggling, so the exercise of taking the survey may prompt important self-reflection, she said. Beyond that, Wise believes there is room to improve student awareness of university mental health services and how to access them.
“As much education and proactivity we can get as a campus and community is a very big step,” Wise said. “This is about getting to know students on a deeper level and really understanding what’s going on at the mental level, and that’s really where it starts. We can’t be successful students if we don’t have healthy minds.”
Widener is one of nine Philadelphia-area colleges and universities who are partnering with JED, thanks to grant funding from Spring Point Partners, a social impact organization that takes a collaborative approach to creating positive change. JED will bring the nine institutions together for a day of professional development and collaborative strategic planning this spring.