Cornell University works to cultivate a caring community in which individuals are encouraged to intervene on another’s behalf and to ask for help when they need it.
Cornell Health's Skorton Center for Health Initiatives provides leadership for the university's mental health initiatives, detailed below. Skorton Center staff members also work directly to impact the health and well-being of students through research-based public health strategies, education, and programming.
Our campus approach
Cornell uses a "Mental Health Framework" to guide our campus-wide approach to student health and well-being.
This comprehensive public health approach ...
- reflects the best practices advocated by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and The Jed Foundation Model for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion.
- is informed by the U.S. Air Force Suicide Prevention Program, a population-based strategy to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors for suicide.
- draws upon the Equity and Mental Health Framework developed by The Jed Foundation, in partnership with The Steve Fund, to better support the mental health of students of color.
Foster a healthy educational environment
- Campus Health Executive Committee: Senior administration provides oversight of health policy and strategies including mental health-related initiatives.
- Coalition on Mental Health: Staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate student leaders inform the development of the university’s mental health strategies.
- Coalition on Sexual Violence Prevention: Staff, faculty, and students examine the campus environment, prevention strategies, policies, procedures, and services related to sexual and interpersonal violence and explores opportunities for fostering cultural change, reducing risks, and increasing support for affected community members.
- Student Assembly Health and Wellness Committee: deals with quality of life issues for students, making sure that student issues are heard and addressed.
- The Graduate and Professional Students Mental Health Advisory Committee: examines issues and concerns of particular interest to graduate and professional students.
- Clear leadership messages from senior university officials and student leaders provide a philosophical foundation for Cornell’s comprehensive approach to mental health and well-being.
- The Cornell Strategic Plan includes the following goal in service of Educational Excellence: “Promote the health and well-being of students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) as a foundation for academic and life success” (see especially pp. 23 and 25.)
- Participation in JED Campus initiative: Assess and enhance mental health-related systems, programs, and policies.
- Examination of Simon Fraser University model: Identify possibilities for creating conditions for well-being in the learning environment.
Campus climate strategies
- Multiple initiatives address climate issues that negatively impact mental health and well-being, including alcohol abuse, bias, hazing, and sexual violence.
- Services, accommodations, and advocacy assist students with disabilities to experience the same educational and other opportunities as their peers.
Promote social connectedness and resilience
Programs & initiatives
Resilience programs: Workshops such as “Thrive@Cornell” and “Let’s CU Sleep” help students develop the capacity to adapt to and bounce back from the stressors inherent in college life.
Greek Culture Change Coalition (GC3): GC3 Chairs (representatives of Cornell’s sorority and fraternity chapters) receive support and resources to meet each chapters’ unique physical, mental, and emotional health needs.
“Let’s Meditate” Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series: Co-sponsored by Cornell Health and multiple groups across campus, Let's Meditate sessions are open to Cornell students, faculty, and staff of all ages, genders, sizes, shapes, and abilities to promote individual resilience through community practice of this restorative technique supported by scientific research.
Cornell Minds Matter: This student mental health advocacy group promotes the overall mental and emotional health of all Cornell students, works to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and holds educational and social events open to the entire Cornell community that foster a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
EARS outreach programs: Peer-led interactive workshops on a range of topics (e.g., personal growth, communication, relationships, mindfulness to relieve stress and anxiety).
Learning Strategies Center support: The LSC provides time management and study skills tools, workshops and individual coaching to support student success.
Nature Rx @Cornell: An innovative initiative involving faculty, staff, and student organizations to promote spending time in nature to improve mood, cognitive ability, social connectedness.
Alcohol education: All incoming first year students are expected to complete AlcoholEdu, an online educational program, before arriving on campus.
Online resources: Mental health self-assessments and stress management materials help students develop coping strategies and learn when and where to turn for help.
Promotion of social connections
Residential and community initiatives: Campus and Community Engagement and the West Campus House System provide a welcoming and inclusive environment that respects individuals while promoting community values. Residential staff and faculty help students thrive in all stages of their Cornell career through student organization involvement, living and learning opportunities, and a multitude of leadership and engagement experiences.
Participation in the College Transition Collaborative (CTC) Pre-Matriculation Social-Belonging Intervention: Exposing incoming students to stories that normalize and typify the challenges associated with transitioning to college fosters a different mindset in which belonging is viewed as a process that develops over time. With this mindset, students come to acknowledge that it is normal for everyone to face challenges and that they have the ability to learn from them and improve.
Diversity programs: Multiple efforts (e.g., Resource Centers, college diversity offices, Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, program houses, the Pre-Freshman Summer Program, and new student orientation programs) seek to foster inclusiveness and promote student well-being.
Increase help-seeking behavior
- Media communication: Posters, advertisements, resource cards, and web pages promote the concepts of the caring community, stress management and strengthening personal resilience along with availability of campus resources and attentiveness to others in distress.
- Caring Community website: This site is Cornell’s gateway to information about campus and local resources, events, and news in support of campus health and well-being [caringcommunity.cornell.edu].
- EARS (Empathy, Assistance, and Referral Services): Student volunteers (trained and supervised by the Dean of Students) provide anonymous telephone or walk-in peer counseling for undergraduate and graduate students.
- Parent education: Web resources and on-campus events (e.g., Orientation Resource Fair, Convocation, Family Weekend programs) inform parents about mental health issues and services.
Identify people in need
Gatekeeper and bystander education
- Notice & Respond: Assisting Students in Distress: helps faculty departments, TAs, and staff workgroups explore how to recognize and respond when a student is in distress. Related web materials provide additional support [health.cornell.edu/notice].
- Notice & Respond: Friend 2 Friend: helps students learn to recognize and reach out to other students in distress, as well as normalizing help seeking. This program is provided to first year students in college seminar classes, peer advisors and mentors,and other student groups and organizations.
- Intervene: An award-winning Cornell video entitled “Intervene” (offered online and in workshops) educates students about how to identify and effectively assist peers facing sexual assault or harassment, bias, hazing, emotional distress, intimate partner violence, and alcohol emergencies [health.cornell.edu/intervene].
- Community consultation and intervention through Cornell Health: Counseling staff members provide guidance and support for faculty and staff concerned about distressed students and coordinate interventions as needed.
- Cornell Health outreach to incoming students: First-year and transfer students complete a health history form and receive relevant information about services and support available at Cornell before arriving on campus.
- Primary care mental health screening: Medical patients are assessed at the time of their visit. Those indicating high levels of distress receive brief interventions or are referred to counseling and/or resources for self-care.
- Interactive Screening Program: Web-based outreach program administered by counselors to identify, engage, and refer to treatment students with depression, anxiety or other identified mental health conditions.
- BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students): A service of Cornell Health for students to explore their alcohol and other drug use. Students are referred to the program by judicial administrators and health care providers, as well as by self-referral.
- Staff members from key campus departments meet weekly to discuss situations (often pre-crisis) involving students whose behavior or well-being is of concern to others.
Academic deans and advisors
- Staff members from academic advising and student services offices within the undergraduate colleges coordinate strategies and share best practices related to student support.
- The university’s Victim Advocacy Program provides confidential assistance to members of the Cornell community who have experienced harmful, threatening, or violent incidents.
Provide medical and mental health services
Interdisciplinary staff is committed to a collaborative approach to caring for the physical and mental health of patients. Medical and counseling professionals collaborate to provide care for students with complex health issues (e.g., eating disorders, chronic illness).
Primary Care: Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, nurses, and care managers treat students’ integrated physical, mental health and social needs, and engage with students in triage and treatment of primary medical and mental health issues. These often include students who are:
- Experiencing emotional distress related to medical problems
- Not yet aware of an emotional cause or psychological component of physical symptoms
- Not comfortable with or ready to access mental health care
Behavioral health consultants: Mental health professionals embedded in primary care teams provide rapid access to early, brief, focused interventions.
Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): Counseling and psychiatry staff provide on-campus services for students, including individual and group counseling, same day triage and emergency care, and referral to community providers for off-campus and specialty care.
Let’s Talk: Walk-in consultations with Cornell Health counselors at ten campus locations increases access to services, particularly for students unlikely to come in for traditional counseling.
Deliver coordinated crisis management
- Cornell Health phone consultation: 24/7 phone consultation with a health care provider for students and people with concerns about a student’s well-being.
- Cornell Police: 24/7 emergency response from Cornell University Police and local law enforcement agencies.
- Crisis Managers: Staff members are on-call at all times to coordinate the university’s response to crisis situations.
- Community Support Team: Staff members from across the university provide support for individuals and groups in the aftermath of tragedies or other crises.
- Local Crisisline: 24/7 support provided to Ithaca community through the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services. 800-273-TALK.
- Cayuga Medical Center: Inpatient mental health care for individuals in crisis.
Restrict access to means of suicide
- Laboratory chemicals and equipment are secured.
- Firearms are restricted on campus.
- Means restriction on campus-area bridges reduce the risk of suicide jumps.
Jed Campus review & recommendations
The Jed Foundation (JED) is a nonprofit organization that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide among teens and young adults. Its Jed Campus initiative is designed to help colleges and universities develop campus-wide systems, programs, and policies to support mental health and prevent substance abuse and suicide.
Cornell has participated in JED’s past programs and is currently a JED Campus member. Recently, the university engaged in an external review by JED. This review was a multi-step process that spanned two years and resulted in the following two documents:
- Jed Foundation Campus Recommendations: full report (pdf)
- Cornell Response to Jed Foundation Recommendations (pdf)