Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Kentucky higher education system partners with The Jed Foundation to prioritize mental health and suicide prevention for students, staff and faculty

February 26, 2024

Counseling group
Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Initiative aims to protect emotional health, prevent suicide and strengthen connectedness across select college campuses and communities statewide.

The Jed Foundation (JED), a leading national nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults, announced a four-year collaboration with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE)’s Student Success Collaborative (KYSSC) and the Healthy Minds Network. Together, the organizations have launched a new multitiered pilot program focusing on the evaluation, development, and deployment of mental health, suicide prevention, and substance misuse programming for select college campuses, reaching nearly 200,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students–or 75% of all college students– across Kentucky.

As part of the partnership, JED is working with CPE to establish and facilitate a community of practice (CoP) that engages CPE staff, campus leaders, and mental health professionals at more than 25 colleges and universities. The first two of four virtually held CoPs kicked off last year with the goal of uniting community members from across the state to share best practices for supporting youth well-being, grounded in both JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities and JED Campus, while also making space for individuals to share lived experiences.

“Addressing mental health challenges among college students requires a comprehensive approach, including better access to mental health services and campus initiatives to reduce stigma around these services,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson. “It also requires campus-wide conversations and professional learning opportunities for faculty, staff and others. We are grateful to JED for their leadership and partnership in making Kentucky a leader in addressing these issues.” 

The collaborative and community-oriented approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention comes at an important time. Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 34 in the United States, and 14% of college students contemplated suicide last year. In 2021, more than 3 million Kentuckians reported living in a community without a sufficient number of mental health professionals, and one-third of the state’s young adults ages 18 to 25 identified as living with a mental health condition.

“JED is proud to introduce this unique program and partnership with CPE, KCTCS, and the Healthy Minds Network to create communities of practice to help strengthen student mental health supports and resources across dozens of Kentucky higher education campuses,” said JED CEO John MacPhee. “This first-of-its-kind collaboration is about creating safer and more connected communities that prioritize student mental health. Together, we can address barriers to care and improve the lives of college students statewide.”

This month, the Healthy Minds Network is administering the Healthy Minds Study (HMS) on all 16 KCTCS college campuses, funded in part by CPE. The survey will offer a detailed picture of mental health and related issues among the current student population and help institutions identify priorities, benchmark against peer institutions, evaluate existing mental health programs, plan for new services, advocate for resources, and ultimately track JED’s impact on student outcomes.

“We’re very pleased to join forces with these partners to help us identify what our students really need, what is working best for them, and where there are opportunities for us to improve services,” said KCTCS President Ryan Quarles. “By addressing the mental health needs of our students, we will better fulfill our mission to educate a healthier, more productive and a higher skilled workforce for Kentucky.”

“Large-scale data collection is the first essential step for informing campus-specific and state-wide priorities to address mental health needs. We are thrilled to see colleges and universities across the state of Kentucky coming together to administer the Healthy Minds Study on their campuses,” said Healthy Minds Network Principal Investigator Sarah Lipson.

In May, KCTCS and CPE will commence a day-long event in Frankfort, Kentucky, to share perspectives, accomplishments, and data insights from the HMS to inform strategic priorities for their respective communities and guide the collaborative partnership through 2027. 

Grant funding for the pilot program is made possible by Macy’s Inc., who sponsored the mental health programming and comprehensive suicide preventative efforts of four KY schools. This initiative was also made possible by the James Graham Brown Foundation, which funded the launch of the Kentucky Student Student Success Collaborative (KYSSC). The KYSSC has invested $214,400 to support 21 colleges and universities to receive JED technical assistance and to support their mental health strategic plan implementation.

If your school or statewide system is interested in partnering with JED on a customized, cost-effective initiative that serves as a safety net against mental health concerns and the risk of suicide, contact Mary Kadera, JED’s Senior Director of Strategic Program Initiatives, at

Last Updated: 2/20/2024