The Best Schools for Health & Safety

The academic, social and personal demands of college life can definitely take a toll on your mental health. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five college students suffers from a mental illness. Similarly, one in five college students experiences sexual assault in their college career, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. As more information comes to light surrounding the dangerous status of college students in terms of these two issues, many universities are striving to make serious changes to their school policies. Although no school is perfect, these ten schools have demonstrated exemplary efforts to make changes that will benefit the mental health and safety of their student body. 

10. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS (St. Louis, MO)


The Washington University in St. Louis assesses student mental health through a variety of platforms. The school offers free online health screenings, where students can self-identify disorders easily and in private. Student group leaders on campus, in dorms and in Greek Life are trained on important health and safety topics.

Wash U offers a “Let’s Talk” program, where students can informally connect with counselors around campus to discuss mental health concerns. Stress-Less @ WashU, a program that offers students a private consultation with a counselor to identify one’s main stress areas, helps ease anxiety and stress-related mental illness on campus. “Ask, Listen, Refer,” an online, 20-minute suicide prevention program, allows students quick and easy access to training for recognizing and supporting at-risk peers. Wash U also recently added a sexual assault prevention program to their new student orientation Bear Beginnings, which is put on by students to discuss and portray the issues of sexual violence on campus. With these resources at hand, Wash U students can feel more comfortable easing their personal health and safety concerns.

9. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT GREENSBORO (Greensboro, NC)


At UNCG, health and safety are serious matters. “Health and safety are promoted constantly and there are numerous resources that are open, easily accessible, and advertised for all students!” say Her Campus UNCG Campus Correspondents Madison Hemric and Hannah Trudeau—and they aren’t kidding.

Even for freshmen, immersion in holistic wellness understanding is available. First-year students can join Spartan Wellness, where they live in a residence hall with other wellness community members and commit to understanding every facet of wellness, as well as promoting it within their living environment and on campus. Moreover, the school has an exemplary program promoting the health and wellness of their athletes. A winner of Active Minds’s Healthy Campus Award, UNCG puts on an annual Red Flag Campaign, encouraging students to notice the red flags of relationship violence in their own and their peers’ relationships, and to say something if need be. The university also has a strong peer education program, in which students can earn up to six course credits in acquiring the skills to be a campus-wide ambassador for student mental health. In short, UNCG infuses the campus culture with wellness measures.

8. ELON UNIVERSITY (Elon, NC)


Praised for its efforts in taking steps to fix rape culture on campus, Elon demonstrates an exemplary sexual assault program. The survivor-centered response system has a both a Violence Responder and a confidential advocacy line available by phone 24/7. New students must take an extensive online sexual assault awareness course before coming to school. Plus, large student groups such as sports teams, Greek organizations, dorms and intro classes go through peer education workshops on important elements of sexual assault. Even more so, leaders in these organizations, such as RAs, fraternity and sorority presidents and orientation leaders are required to undergo training on bystander intervention, consent, survivor support and reporting. Moreover, the school recognizes both the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Months with events on campus. Elon pushes to create a comfortable campus for its students, and its work does not go unnoticed!

7. WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY (Bellingham, WA)


Another winner of the Active Minds’s Healthy Campus Award, Western Washington University has made strides in health and safety, making them an excellent model for other schools.

“Western acts to promote the health and wellness of students, from posters around campus that provide information about mental health, to school-wide emails with resources for students,” says freshman Julia Ide.

All new students must complete Haven, an online training program that educates students on healthy relationships, consent and sexual violence. The Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) service assists and supports student victims, no matter how long ago their incident occurred. CASAS has also created a Safe Space Training program, giving members of the Western Washington community the skills and knowledge to be allies to victims and create a violence-intolerant environment. Through fostering a culture of safety throughout the school community, WWU improves the overall campus attitude towards student wellness.

6. CONNECTICUT COLLEGE (New London, CT)


After joining the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, which requires a review of on-campus mental health and support, Connecticut College was praised for its excellent efforts in the pursuit of student mental health. Conn’s CARE team, co-chaired by the Dean of Students and Dean of the College, comprises many official members on campus who field online reports and concerns about incidents and mental health issues, coming up with and executing a method of intervention and support. Having been awarded a $75,000 grant for suicide prevention, Conn College established a campus-community coalition to ensure that students in crisis are cared for and supported, while simultaneously reducing the mental health stigma in the community.

Conn also offers “Green Dot” training, in which community members are trained to promote sexual safety on campus by creating an environment that is intolerant of sexual violence. “Our amazing Green Dot coordinator, Darcie Folsom, has made the Green Dot program a norm at our school instead of the exception,” says Susannah Alfred, a senior at Conn.

A physical investment in mental health combined with a fight for sexual safety demonstrates Conn’s pursuit of changing campus culture.

5. RICE UNIVERSITY (Houston, TX)


A big part of Rice’s mental health programming is the Culture of Care, “the notion that the Rice community is made up of members who look out for each other,” says rising senior Renata Wetterman. Rice offers a Caregiving program, where peers are on call to assist with alcohol emergencies or any other concerns about a student’s well-being by connecting them  to the right safety resources. Project SAFE, Sexual Assault Free Environment, puts on extensive programming for all incoming students and upperclassman advisers during their orientation week. Students at Rice do not need to fear a financial burden in seeking mental health assistance, as the school covers all services.

Rice has also demonstrated a willingness to change policies in response to student concerns. “This year, the results of a survey of unwanted sexual experiences among undergrads prompted not only discussion, but action on campus,” says Renata. “Since the survey results revealed an unacceptable reality, students and campus administrators worked towards [creating] a course for all new students in Critical Thinking in Sexuality, as well as creating a group to provide peer resources for students who may have been sexually assaulted.” Instead of simply acknowledging that the issue exists, the university is actually making concrete changes. Nice, Rice!

4. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY (East Lansing, MI)


Although MSU has seen its share of Title IX violations, the school is making some serious strides towards improving campus culture.

MSU’s main mental health website, a project of The Jed Foundation, an organization that promotes on-campus emotional health, bustles with clickable resources, from an online self-evaluating tool to advice on how to notice issues with a friend.

What really stands out at MSU is its sexual assault programming. Every year, the school awards the Teal Ribbon Award to applaud a department or person that has demonstrated a strong commitment to increasing awareness and reducing sexual violence within the university, providing incentive for members of the MSU community to take action. MSU’s Safe Place, a temporary shelter for MSU students and surrounding community members who are victims of relationship violence, provides an understanding and educational environment for those who feel uncomfortable and threatened on campus. “Most schools place all of its sexual assault resources into one program, but not at Michigan State!” says Caitlin Taylor, a rising senior.

And she’s right. In a giant school where getting lost in the crowd seems almost inevitable, MSU perseveres to create accessible resources.

3. PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY (State College, PA)


Like MSU, Penn State does not let the sheer size of its student body belittle its investment in individual student health and safety measures.

The “Show You Care” campaign encourages bystander intervention on mental health issues, and the university website outlines a detailed method of approaching friends for specific mental health issues, such as suicide, stress management and eating disorders. In terms of preventing sexual assault, the university subsidizes all rape-related medical issues and provides an option called the “trauma drop,” where survivors can withdraw from semesters or drop courses without permanent academic repercussions. Furthermore, the university established a Sexual Assault and Harassment Task Force to constantly assess and improve Penn State’s sexual assault activities and policies. These efforts prove that PSU is never done striving to make important changes to campus culture.

2. UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, TWIN CITIES (Minneapolis, MN)


Also one of five 2015 Active Minds’s “Healthy Campus Award” winners, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities demonstrates that it does not put mental health on the back burner.

The university has established a mental health statement for all syllabi, as well as a 24-hour crisis line available to students in need. They also created a Health Advocate program that equips students with the skills and training to be peer health resources stationed in every residence hall and Greek house. UMN offers opportunities for students to seek therapy in the privacy of their own homes through an online portal. Another modern health initiative is the school’s textline, where you can have a text conversation with a counselor, supplementary to the school’s phone line. UMN also has an entirely separate center for sexual assault counseling and education, offering multiple volunteer options for students to spread awareness and involvement across campus. UMN’s efforts to create a supportive environment show how much the school cares about its student body.

1. THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY (Washington, D.C.)


GW’s mental health and safety measures should serve as a benchmark for many other schools in the country. The university not only has private clinical services, but also seeks to actively promote mental health and wellness throughout the student body—and it commits to this promise.

Students can request an outreach activity, meaning they can put in a request for free programming from the Colonial Health Center and in under a month, the center will organize and execute either a speaker or a workshop to help address the needs of the students or student group. The school also has a crisis intervention model that allows students to anonymously reach out to the office on behalf of a fellow student, and the office will seek out that student and take initiative to bring him or her the necessary help.

Moreover, the school offers a peer education program, in which students receive class credit in taking courses on learning how to educate the community on mental health and safety issues. Students are also active in sexual assault prevention, participating this year in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign, in which men walk a mile in high heels to raise awareness about the severity of sexual assault on college campuses. GW’s measures are beyond exemplary.