WATERVILLE, MAINE, September 2023 — The prolonged pandemic has created more stress and anxiety than ever before, according to a 2022 survey by TimelyMD, the leading telehealth company focused on higher education. Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents reported a mental health crisis on college campuses.
Thomas College in Waterville, Maine is no stranger to these experiences and has reported a 20% increase in the number of scheduled counseling appointments for academic year 2022-2023 over academic year 2021-2022.
Recently, Thomas College was awarded three separate grants to continue to improve support of students’ mental health. The Davis Family Foundation grant provided $20,000 in funding for the 2022-2023 academic year to add clinical staffing for the counseling center; the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) provided a $30,000 planning grant for the 2023-2024 academic year to develop a comprehensive behavioral health strategic plan for campus. Through their partnership with the Morgan Stanley Foundation, the JED Foundation provided a $22,000 scholarship to Thomas College, allowing the College to pursue JED Campus certification. The Jed Foundation (JED) is designed to help schools evaluate and strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems to ensure that schools have the strongest possible mental health safety nets. There are currently over 450 campuses engaged in the JED Campus program. Upon completing this process, Thomas College would be recognized as the first JED accredited campus in Maine.
Grants from these three funders are being utilized to serve immediate student needs, fund student positions to assist and help co-lead the campus team in developing our plan and support the behavioral health strategic planning process. “This process was put into motion by students during the President’s Innovation Challenge in the Spring of 2021. It is important to us that student voices continue to guide us,” said Carol Jollotta, LCSW, one of the counselors at the College.
“I’m grateful to the funders for partnering with Thomas College in support of student mental health,” said Thomas College Dean of Student Affairs Lisa Desautels-Poliquin. “We’ve put together a strong campus interdisciplinary task force that includes faculty, staff, and students to work with our JED advisor and guide our work over the next year. I know we’ll learn and grow a lot through this process and look forward to developing a plan that addresses the specific needs of our students and campus community.”
By joining JED Campus, Thomas College demonstrates a commitment to the emotional well-being of its students. 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 Higher Education team.