Dear Dartmouth community,
Today, I am writing with an update on a key component of Dartmouth’s review of mental health and well-being, the JED Campus program findings, and next steps. In my last message to campus, I discussed the Healthy Minds Study, which partially informed these findings.
As a reminder, we contracted with the JED Foundation’s JED Campus program for a comprehensive assessment of our campus mental health and well-being environment. JED sent campus advisers to guide us through individual assessments of each of our student populations (graduate, professional, and undergraduate students). This assessment included self-studies, surveys, and site visits to review our programs, policies, and practices in 80 distinct areas.
In summer 2022, the JED Campus advisers sent initial feedback in the form of a checklist that identified Dartmouth’s strengths and growth areas. They looked at each area and evaluated where we were in comparison with other JED campuses (more than 400 institutions).
JED identified strengths and recommendations in each area. A representative selection of their findings is listed below. A larger list, along with actions that Dartmouth has taken since the JED assessment, is available on our website.
Representative Sample of Strengths
- Stakeholder engagement and an all-Dartmouth approach. The JED Campus advisers noted that Dartmouth’s commitment to assessing and reviewing each population of students is a strength. By creating separate assessments for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, each population’s unique needs can be accounted for in developing an overall plan for improving mental health and well-being.
- Undergraduate life skills development opportunities. The JED Campus advisers found that life-skills development opportunities at Dartmouth varies by type of student with undergraduates having access to a wide range of opportunities through several offices.
- Social connectedness. The JED Campus advisers recognized that Dartmouth supports social connectedness in many ways, such as student organizations, sports, religious and student life groups, leadership opportunities, and identity groups tailored to the interests and needs of students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education.
- Routine screening in primary care. The Primary Care and Preventive Medicine (PCPM) department at Dartmouth College Health Services (Dick’s House) screens students for mental-health related issues at all appointments, even if their reason for scheduling the appointment was unrelated to mental health.
- Peer mentoring. Dartmouth has multiple peer-mentoring systems at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional student levels. These contribute to a strong culture of caring among students.
- Counseling Center Staffing. Dartmouth Counseling Center has 14 clinicians, including two psychiatrists who can prescribe and manage medications. The center also has a case manager. Half of the clinicians identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and several identify as LGBTQ+. The Dartmouth Counseling Center offers counseling in four languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Taiwanese.
- Inpatient nursing department. The on-campus Inpatient Nursing Department/Infirmary at Dartmouth College Health Services is one of only a few in the country where students with mental health or other concerns can stay overnight. This is a valuable service given Dartmouth’s rural setting and intense 10-week terms for undergraduates and some graduate and professional students.
- Crisis support. The Counseling Center offers 24-hour on-call crisis counseling for students or for those who are concerned about a student. Any student in a crisis can talk with a counselor that same day.
- Safe medication disposal. Safe medication disposal is available at Dartmouth College Health Services for all students, staff, and faculty. The Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center pharmacy offers safe medication disposal as well, which Geisel students and others visiting the DHMC campus can use.
Representative Sample of Recommendations
- Mental Health and well-being in strategic plans. JED recommended that Dartmouth take a strategic approach to address mental health and well-being. They recommended developing a strategic plan that included current and long-range plans.
- Improve life-skill development opportunities for graduate and professional students. Dartmouth’s graduate and professional students have fewer life-skill development opportunities than undergraduates, especially those tailored to their unique needs.
- Cultivate more social opportunities beyond Greek life. A large part of Dartmouth’s undergraduate social scene revolves around fraternities and sororities, where high-risk drinking and exclusionary social situations might be present. JED Campus recommended that Dartmouth cultivate options for healthy, inclusive social interaction that are perceived as high-value by students.
- Streamline procedures for taking time away for medical reasons. The JED Campus advisers recommended facilitating and streamlining the process for students taking time away for medical reasons, especially in emergency situations. This includes helping undergraduate students handle communications with multiple offices such as financial aid, housing, and the registrar.
- Add teletherapy. At the time of the review, Dartmouth relied on campus-based counseling. JED Campus advisers recommended adding a teletherapy service to improve student access, including offering a wider range of scheduling hours, more counselor choices for students preferring to see a counselor with their shared linguistic or cultural identity, and counseling for students who are off campus. (Dartmouth contracted with a teletherapy service, Uwill, in fall 2022.)
- Postvention protocol. As Dartmouth’s postvention protocol (response after a student death) was originally developed for undergraduates, the advisers recommended that language and processes should be reviewed to include the graduate and professional schools.
- Environmental scans for means restriction. JED Campus advisers recommended doing an environmental scan to review risk factors. This includes facilities and campus security staff and develop a plan for remediation.
Dartmouth has already made progress on several of the recommendations, such as contracting with Uwill to provide teletherapy services and making changes to the time away for medical reasons policy. (For a complete list of recent actions, see the website.)
As mentioned above, Dartmouth convened a steering committee charged with producing a strategic plan for supporting student mental health and well-being. This effort supplements the working groups that are addressing specific findings directly and provides a framework for future actions.
Over the fall and winter terms, six working groups developed actionable next steps ranging from conducting listening sessions to developing communications infrastructure. This work will continue through the spring and summer terms.
I encourage you to visit the Mental Health at Dartmouth the Healthy Minds data, the JED findings, and our initiatives. We will provide more updates in the coming months.
Best wishes, and be well,
Provost David Kotz ‘86