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JED Foundation partners with UT: Checking up on the wellness center

by Victoria Takacs

In order to better understand and help students, UT has started working with the JED Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to protect emotional health and prevent suicide amongst teens and young adults. The partnership was solidified last spring and is the first program in Florida.

UT said in a statement from a new public information release, “The University of Tampa is launching a four-year partnership with The Jed Foundation. By becoming a JED Campus, UT hopes to prevent the two leading causes of death in young adults: unintentional injuries, including those caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning and suicide.”

On Monday, Feb. 4, JED will be coming to the campus to speak with a small, currently undecided group of students. It will work almost as a focus group to get student opinions, hopefully providing more insight as to what kind of help students really need. The next day they will be meeting with the UT JED team and a few others to discuss their findings and create a strategic plan to start implementing changes.

Gina Firth, the associate dean of wellness at UT, believes the new initiative will be very beneficial to the campus.

“[This is] a super important project, and I’m just absolutely thrilled that we’re engaging in this right now,” Firth said.

The JED initiative has already started and has been working hard to gather information on what students want and need they expect the change to be slow.

“When you’re working on a project like this, cultural shifts take a lot of time, so I’m not expecting to see major changes in a four year period of time,” Firth said. “But there may be some movement, and then we’re going to continue to work towards our strategic plan and continue to monitor and hope that we’re continuing to increase students’ wellbeing, retention, persistence and the overall quality of life as a student.”

Connie McCullough, the director of Counseling Services at UT says that she is grateful to be involving the JED initiative on campus.

“I am looking forward to the partnership and the focus on the importance of mental health resources for our UT community,” McCullough said. “We have an amazing counseling staff who are all dedicated to supporting our students in whatever struggles they may be facing. I think this initiative will help to build a greater understanding of how crucial student mental health is to student academic success.”

In a recent study done by Harvard, it was reported that approximately one in five college students consider suicide due to how much stress they are put under. The study also states that there is “an urgent need for strategies to inoculate students against stress during this developmental period, especially among racial/ethnic, sexual or gender minorities.”

UT has set up support groups for students going through hard times, hoping to lend a hand in any way students might need. Orientation organizations, Residence Life programs and First-Year Experience classes work towards making students feel more comfortable and better prepared for college life.

UT also offers students up to six counseling sessions per semester in the Dickey Health and Wellness Center, located behind Austin Hall. These sessions are meant to guide students down the right path and provide support in overcoming challenges.

The JED Foundation started in 2000 by Donna and Phil Satow after their son Jed committed suicide. His parents started the foundation in order to help others dealing with the same tragedy and provide support for the nation’s students.

Starting on Oct. 8, the Healthy Minds UT survey will be open for students for three weeks, and takes about 20 minutes to complete. It is meant to help the program better understand the minds of students and what they actually need. All students will receive an email about the study.

Healthy Minds UT is completely anonymous and voluntary, but in order to figure out what will work best for students, participation will be extremely important to creating a better plan, acording to Firth. At the end of the program there will be a second study to see how much things have changed over the four years.

Though the JED foundation will be working to improve UT’s counseling services for students, the counseling center is no the only form of help available. There are numerous support groups on campus with the intention of providing help in any way to students. These groups include UTampa Pride, Balance UT, Black Student Union, Active Minds, UT Recovery Community and countless others. The groups are all available on ut.edu under student organizations.

For further help off campus students can also visit crisiscenter.com.

Victoria Takacs can be reached at vitakacs0503@gmail.com

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