Today, Cornell University was announced as one of five universities to receive the 2015 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award for the university’s “cohesive, innovative public health approach to student health and wellness.”
Active Minds is a national nonprofit organization that forms peer-run groups on campuses to empower students to speak openly about mental health, educate others and encourage help-seeking. The Healthy Campus Award celebrates U.S. colleges and universities that champion student voices, create equal opportunity for health, are data-informed and data-driven, and strategically invest in student health for the long term through public health initiatives.
“This award reflects the collective efforts of students, staff and faculty to create a more caring and healthy campus,” said Tim Marchell, director of the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Gannett Health Services. “It does not mean our campus has achieved all that needs to be done, but it does reflect a deep and demonstrable commitment to the ongoing and multifaceted work of making Cornell more supportive of student health and well-being.”
Greg Eells, director of Gannett’s Counseling and Psychological Services, said Active Minds recognizes the role colleges and universities play in shaping the behaviors of a young adult’s life.
“Promoting a healthy culture in which students feel safe and supported and free to reach out for help can make a huge difference in their life trajectories,” he said. “At Cornell, we believe that early access to mental health services and support greatly affects long-term outcomes. We are always striving to improve student access to the appropriate levels of care.”
Active Minds singled out several examples of Cornell’s efforts. The “Let’s Talk” program, a national model through which students have informal opportunities to consult with counselors at drop-in locations across campus, helps improve access to care.
“This program is one of our oldest and most successful programs, literally meeting students where they are,” Eells said. Each year – for the past 11 years – between 400 and 500 students have used Let’s Talk, he said.
Also cited was Cornell Minds Matter (CMM), a student organization geared toward overcoming barriers and resistance to seeking help. Founded in 2004, this group of peers promotes knowledge about mental health and resources on campus, and helps students navigate the daily stresses of college life.
“Forty CMM students initiate, create and facilitate 165 programs each semester that empower students by giving them the necessary information, skills and confidence to keep their lives in balance. Encouraging dialogue among students, staff and faculty about mental health concerns will enable the best college experience for all,” said Casey Carr, associate dean of students and adviser to CMM.
Active Minds also highlighted the following Cornell efforts:
- Actively building a caring community by preparing faculty, staff, teaching assistants and students to “Notice and Respond” to students in distress.
- Requiring two physical education courses to graduate.
- Working with students on orientation programming for first-year undergrads and those returning from health leaves of absence; focusing on the importance of seeking help; and providing education about the importance of belonging, resilience skill-building and maintaining perspective when faced with adversity.
“The Healthy Campus Award recognizes that Cornell has made great strides toward creating a campus environment that promotes student health and well-being as foundations for academic and life success,” said Ryan Lombardi, Cornell vice president for student and campus life. “We continually aspire to create a campus in which every student has the opportunity to thrive.”