Bellarmine will soon start a campus-wide mental wellbeing initiative

November 15, 2021


Bellarmine University has received funding to craft and implement a comprehensive strategic plan to support campus mental health over the next four years.

The Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit working to prevent suicide and promote the mental wellbeing of young adults, will guide Bellarmine in the effort.

Dr. Gary Petiprin, director of Bellarmine’s Counseling Center, said the initiative will help campus address mental health with improved policies, events, programming and messaging, while also empowering faculty, staff and peers to support students who may be struggling with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression or substance abuse.

“I know that mental health is on the minds of many people these days and we have done a solid job of trying to support the mental health needs of individual students,” Petiprin said. “We just need to be more strategic and have a broader lens as we move forward. Our old ways of doing things are no longer sufficient to meet the ever-expanding needs.”

Since the pandemic, requests have risen 25 percent for the Bellarmine Counseling Center’s services, as have mental health needs across the country.

In October, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry joined with several other groups in declaring a national state of emergency for young people’s mental health, saying the pandemic had worsened a growing crisis. The last decade saw increasing rates of depression, anxiety, trauma and loneliness among America’s youth and young adults. In 2018, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24.

Petiprin said that Counseling Center staff, along with a campus-wide committee, explored options for how to enhance mental wellbeing on campus and immediately looked to JED. A family created the foundation in 1998 after their son died from suicide as a way to prevent suicide. Since then, the nonprofit has grown to a leading resource for school and campus communities.

JED’s Campus program guides universities through a collaborative process of program and policy development, with customized support from a dedicated campus advisor that builds upon existing student mental health offerings. JED Campus has worked with nearly 350 institutions representing over 4.5 million students.

Bellarmine was granted a scholarship, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, that will pay for 70 percent of the work.

Petiprin said the project will begin in January with a student survey and a self-assessment questionnaire for campus stakeholders. The strategic plan should be finished by mid-summer and its implementation will follow.

“We felt the starting point for us would be to conduct a systematic, detailed and evidence-based analysis of the actual mental health needs of our students,” he said. “This is very much a holistic approach of trying to address mental health needs and do so in an evidence-based way.”



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