Student works to bring JED Foundation to MU

Jordan Kessler, Staff writer

The JED Foundation is a nonprofit organization that exists to support people who are struggling with mental health issues and focuses on spreading awareness about emotional health. Mercyhurst University is not working with the JED Foundation currently, but sophomore McKenzie Kestler has been hard at work to change that.

Since the beginning of February, she has been working on a proposal and petition for Mercyhurst University to be a part of the JED Foundation.

“Students on this campus and campuses around the country are struggling. So I have decided to use my voice in order to help make a change,” Kestler said.

JED works with schools to help evaluate and strengthen the mental health of students, while providing help and support regarding issues such as substance abuse, suicide and other negative actions. The JED Foundation is not only for schools, but also supports families and communities in providing assistance and support with dealing with mental health.

Kestler’s goal is to help all young adults become equipped with the skills needed to navigate challenges surrounding mental health and negative stressors in their lives.

“One of my best friends struggles with mental health issues and I have seen them at their lowest points,” Kestler said. “That is what is driving this initiative. I don’t want anyone else to feel like there is no help for them available or that it would just be easier to end it all.”

The JED Foundation’s goals closely relate to the goal of Kestler’s proposal that outlines statistics and history of the organization, as well as other schools that participate in the program, goals and missions of JED and how it will benefit the Mercyhurst community.

In order to work directly with universities, JED has developed an initiative called JED Campus, specifically devoted toward empowering campuses and schools with the tools needed to better their student’s mental health. According to Kestler’s proposal, JED Campus allows school administrators to talk and brainstorm ideas with JED advisers to “identify gaps in policies/programs and fill them with other resources in order to ensure that schools have the strongest possible mental health safety nets in place.”

The approach to creating a JED supported campus starts with aiding in emotional well-being and preventing suicidal thoughts among students through the promotion of social interaction between other students. Specifically, the JED Comprehensive Approach toward assisting schools has a total of seven steps all resulting in a unique development of strategy for each individual school.

JED first promotes social connections, then identifies the students at risk. From there, they increase encouragement toward help seeking behavior. By providing mental health and substance abuse services, those students can get the help they want/need on campus. Next, JED follows the crisis management procedure in order to restrict access to potentially lethal means on that campus.

Finally, JED encourages the faculty and staff at the university to assist the students in developing life skills to better equip them on management of their emotional health.

Kestler is not alone in believing in making Mercyhurst University a JED Campus, as Mercyhurst already offers several services such as the Counseling Center to support mental health.

“Student support is the most important thing when it comes to this project,” Kestler said.

In addition to helping its students, the university would gain benefits as well. By becoming a member of the JED Foundation, Mercyhurst would develop a four-year partnership with a JED adviser, allowing the campus to renew its membership every four years. Additionally, the campus would be allowed usage to ULifeline, a confidential online resource for students struggling with their mental health and providing them with the resources necessary to help them.

Another benefit from joining the JED Foundation is the national recognition of Mercyhurst University in the support of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Additional information on what the school would benefit from by joining the JED Foundation can be found on the organizations’ website.

Supporters say the JED Foundation is a good investment for Mercyhurst University, not only because it is a reliable foundation, but also because it is an organization that provides help to people struggling with mental illness.

If you would like to show your support for Kestler’s proposal and the integration of JED Campus at Mercyhurst, use this link to sign the petition: