A Task Force on Emotional Health and Well-Being was formed in fall 2019 to propose and discuss changes to Kenyon’s administrative response regarding mental health issues—especially following the controversial “Send Silence Packing” event that occurred in September. The Task Force features a combination of administrators, faculty and students and is run by Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 and John B. McCoy-Banc One Distinguished Teaching Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer.
According to the Task Force’s most recent report, their main objective, following their latest meeting on April 21, is to immediately assemble a report for the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) as a follow-up to the GLCA Presidential Summit on Mental Health, which various members of the Task Force attended in December.
The Task Force also decided to halt their efforts to make Kenyon a JED campus. The JED campus program, born from the JED Foundation, is “designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, program and policy development with customized support to build upon existing student mental health, substance use and suicide prevention efforts,” according to the program website. Among other services, JED conducts a “Healthy Minds” survey at schools to provide the data that may inform policy recommendations. However, according to the Task Force, Kenyon’s Healthy Minds data from the previous survey was “significantly” out of date, and would not account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Task Force also cites the emergence of Talk- space, an online therapy service provided to Kenyon students who reside outside of Ohio, as the reason for its decision to shy away from becoming a JED campus. Kenyon’s fiscal partnership with Talkspace will run at least until May of 2021.
Lesser-Roy believes the Task Force is working hard to serve the Kenyon community as best as it can, despite the challenges of communicating virtually during a pandemic.
“I think, in general, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done,” Lesser-Roy said. “This isn’t an issue that can be fixed overnight. And I think the fact that the discussion is happening, and that something like Talkspace is being invested in and is at the forefront of all of our minds is super, super important.”
In addition, Talkspace will host a webinar for students at partner schools on Thursday, May 21 from 1-2 p.m. ET. Topics covered will include “adjusting to life at home, returning to campus, remote learning, loss of campus resources, financial hardships, disconnection and more.” There will also be a live Q&A session; students wishing to ask a question ahead of time are asked to fill out a form sent to their emails.