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K-State Today

July 14, 2021

SEM student success and retention update: JED Campus initiative

Submitted by Thomas Lane

Dear students, faculty and staff, 

In November 2019, I announced a partnership with the JED Foundation as one step in helping to create a healthier and safer university. Our participation in the JED Campus program aligns with the Strategic Enrollment Management, or SEM, plan as it supports well-being, and in turn promotes retention and student success. Likewise, the Division of Student Life strategic plan includes a call to champion holistic well-being as one of five strategic goals. Fostering a culture of student well-being is an important part of attracting students to the university and in helping them stay at the university to achieve their goals.

K-State officially launched a four-year partnership with the JED Foundation in spring 2020 by participating in the national JED Campus program. The JED Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide in young adults. JED partners with colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs. Our JED Campus partnership agreement currently focuses on the Manhattan campus. We look forward to applying the learnings from this initial work to all of our campuses and student populations.

Our JED Campus Team, consisting of K-State students, faculty and staff, and in consultation with our JED Campus advisor, engaged in a self-assessment of our current programs, policies and services regarding student emotional well-being. In fall 2020, the team visited with our JED Campus advisor and identified more than 70 potential action steps regarding supporting student well-being. The team has categorized the action steps in four workgroups and will be monitoring ongoing progress.

Throughout this process, our team has been using data to inform its work. In spring 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lafene Health Center conducted a survey of randomly sampled Kansas State University students regarding a variety of health topics, including mental health and utilization of on and off-campus services. Key findings in the 2020 National College Health Assessment, or NCHA survey included:

  • Close to one out of three students responding (33.1%) self-reported meeting the criteria for "moderate" or "serious" psychological distress (i.e., anxiety and depression) in the past 30 days.
  • When screening for suicide risk factors (presence of suicidal thoughts and attempts, frequency of suicidal thoughts, threat level of suicidal attempts, and likelihood of future suicidal attempts), one out of five students (20.8%) responding met the criteria for a higher risk of suicide.
  • Students reported a marked increase in moderate to high levels of stress experienced within the last 12 months from the same survey conducted in 2018.
  • From the 2018 to 2020 results, students reported an increase in every factor negatively impacting academic performance, such as depression, sleep difficulties, finances, anxiety and stress.

Additionally, in fall 2020, our JED Campus Team distributed the Healthy Minds survey to a randomly selected sample of students. From the 793 students responding:

  • 39% of those responding screened from mild to major depression.
  • 32% screened for anxiety.
  • 12% responding shared they had experienced some form of suicidal ideation over the past year.
  • 25% of students responded they often feel lonely.
  • 39% of students responding said they were experiencing positive mental health.

Though a slightly lower than desired response rate for the Healthy Minds survey requires caution in generalizing results, the results do mirror national student emotional well-being data. The JED Campus Team will be further analyzing the data collected to see what differences may exist among demographic groups and identify programmatic implications.

We continue to make progress in fostering a culture of student well-being at K-State. JED Campus action steps addressed this past academic year include:

  • Piloted You@KSU, an anonymous online well-being resource platform available to all K-State students, faculty and staff. The platform is intended to help students succeed in academic and career readiness, thrive in areas of personal well-being, and mattering by finding motivation and getting involved. You@K-State will be widely advertised this fall to both incoming and current students.
  • Offered the Thrive program through Lafene Health Center to address student emotional well-being. Programs offered by Thrive have included resiliency training, self-care strategies and mindfulness. Last fall, Thrive Navigators, a departmental student organization, was formed to develop a peer counseling program with emphasis on resilience, suicide prevention, suicide crisis postvention, and mental health and overall well-being.
  • Consolidated Counseling Services within Lafene Health Center to increase synergy, efficiency and collaboration between these two student-facing units (effective July 1). The newly named Lafene Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, department, led by Dr. Kodee Walls, will be implementing a re-envisioned care model beginning this fall semester to better support our students and meet their emotional well-being needs. More information will be shared about the care model in upcoming weeks.
  • Offered the Bandana Project presentation through Lafene Health Center's Thrive program. This student-focused presentation partners with a national campaign to spread suicide prevention and mental health awareness. The workshop helps students recognize and respond to signs of distress in peers, learn about campus resources, and develop helpful listening skills. More than 400 students have participated in this interactive workshop since its spring launch. A presentation request form is available.
  • Collaborated with the offices of Enrollment Management and Student Success and the Division of Financial Services to make tuition insurance available. This optional coverage helps protect students' educational investment if they are unable to complete the semester due to a covered medical reason such as a mental health issue, illness, or accident.

Thanks to the generous support from K-State alumni Charlie and Debbie Morrison, we have re-named the former Lafene Health Promotions office as the Morrison Family Center for Student Well-being. The center will serve as a data-gathering point for identifying current issues impacting student well-being, coordinate and promote Student Life well-being programs, and actively help spread the word to students about campus well-being programs outside Student Life.

Congruent with the JED Campus philosophy that we all play an important part in creating a healthy campus, the Morrison Family Center for Student Well-Being will be offering workshops this fall for faculty and staff to recognize the signs of a student with a mental health concern and appropriately refer to supportive resources. Look for more information about Project Waypoint and how to register for a workshop in an upcoming K-State Today article.

The JED Campus initiative has helped our campus identify next steps in addressing student emotional well-being concerns. Support from caring and committed K-Staters will greatly assist the university in kniting a stronger fabric of care to support our students both personally and academically. The JED Campus Team will host a half-day retreat early this fall semester and will meet throughout the academic year as we move into the second year of our partnership with the JED Foundation. I look forward to continuing to update the campus community on its work. Thank you for all you do to support our students and their well-being at K-State.


Thomas Lane 
Vice president for student life