College Student Grief: Issues and a Practical Approach National Students of AMF Support Network David Fajgenbaum, MSc email@example.com Co-Founder & Board Chair MD (candidate) Upenn ‘13I honestly believe that it’s the main reason I was able to stayat Georgetown (which is what my dad wants) rather thanmoving home. Julie, 2009, Georgetown
Overview College Student Grief Background My Experience (video) Overview of National Students of AMF What we do Our Strategic Framework Our Accomplishments What YOU can do
College Student Grief Background 22-30% of college students are in the first year of grieving the death of a family member or close friend 35-48% are within the first 2 years (Balk, 2001; Balk, 2008). “Silent epidemic” I felt so alone and isolated in my grief. I was on a campus surrounded by 20,000 other students who I was sure couldn’t begin to grasp what I was dealing with. Danielle, 2011, University of Delaware
Unique issues on Campus Already coping with multiple life transitions and stressors: Geographically distant from their usual support systems Competing demand for jobs and making career choices, Forging one’s autonomy, Coping with academic pressures, and Maintaining a “carefree” social life. While bereaved students find talking about the death helpful, few non-bereaved peers are comfortable with or willing to talk with the bereaved about death
Impact Lack of support and isolation can have a profound negative impact on the bereaved academically, developmentally, occupationally, and socially during the college years (Balk & Vesta, 1998) Bereaved students have reported difficulties with concentrating and studying (Balk & Vesta, 1998; Silverman, 1987) Varying data regarding GPA and negative academic standing (i.e., probation, dropped, withdrawn) (Servaty- Seib & Hamilton, 2006) I had lost my best friend just two days before I had to return to WOU for ﬁnals, which is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Nawwal, 2012, Western Oregon University
Impact on health Greater risk of many unique problems, including: enduring depression, social isolation/withdrawal, sleep disturbances, risky behaviors, severe and ongoing somatic complaints, and an increased vulnerability for disease and eating disorders Even in milder forms, a preoccupation with death can disrupt emotional and social functioning Sadness, anger, guilt, increased/decreased empathy for others, less trust for others Intrusive thoughts, lowered personal life expectancy I lost the person that gave me life; her life gave my life purpose, but it also resulted in great pain… I struggled with my grief, which affected both my academic and social progress. Tiffany, 2011, NC State University
Interventions on campus Health risks and psychological problems can be mollified or avoided if proper support and help is made available to the bereaved The college environment holds great potential for providing more effective support to bereaved students I conducted research for my senior thesis (2007) investigating university practices, programs and policies in place to support bereaved college students Survey of 54 college and university administrators and 3 in-depth expert informant interviews The challenges and problems that we deal with as students with ailing loved ones are unique and impossibly difﬁcult, but the support of groups such as AMF make them bearable. Tiffany, 2010, Upenn Law School
Results of Thesis Research Found that university administrators underestimated prevalenceof bereavement Administrators reported believing that bereaved students needsupport from friends more so than they do from counselors;however, only one institution has an established system in place toprovide peer support Administrators believe that programs that raise awareness andeducate campus members about student bereavement are themost important new programs for universities to offer Efforts have focused primarily on psychological treatment atcounseling centers.
Call for change Servaty Seib & Hamilton (2006) and Balk (2001) have called for the development of interventions to support this population Combined this identified need with my personal experience with bereavement during college Mother diagnosed with brain cancer 2 weeks before freshman year Very little resources beyond counseling I feel alone, helpless and guilty for being away from home. David, 2007, Georgetown University
Overview of National Students of AMF Began as a support group on Georgetown’s campus Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in May 2006 Old mission: to support college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one (however defined). New mission: to connect and empower college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one to support one another and channel their energy towards positive outlets. It is not all about sadness… it is about cherishing the life you had with your lost loved ones. Loreal, 2012, UGA
Programs of National Students of AMF Create Students of AMF campus chapters on college campuses nationwide, Serve as a resource for grieving college students nationwide, Raise awareness about the needs of grieving college students, and Host national grief support programs and events, like the National Conference on College Student Grief, Boot Camp 2 Beat Cancer and National College Student Grief Awareness Week.
Overview of Campus Chapters Student-led, faculty/staff advised, collaborative, community-based approach that brings together peer-grief support, empowering service activities, faculty mentoring, and university resources. Support group where bereaved students can relate to peers also facing the unique challenges of grief during their college years Service group through which the entire campus community can volunteer and raise awareness and funds for causes important to chapter members. Mentoring program for faculty and staff to connect with a member of the support group Every school should have a chapter, and every student should know about it. Tiffany, 2009, UPenn
Support Group Meet every other week for a peer-lead, open- discussion open to ALL grieving college students Students can share their thoughts, feelings and experiences, NOT advice. Ex: care packages, “holidays,” “friends who don’t understand,” memorial garden It has been so empowering to be part of a group where they know exactly how I feel even before I’ve told them my story because they’ve all been there, and where they just want to share my experience with me. Lee, 2013, Georgia Southern
Service Group Open to the entire campus community Participates in one service event each month Allows students to “fight back” against or champion those causes that have taken their loved ones. Begins a dialogue on campus about the issues of bereaved college students.AMF attended the Walk to D’Feet ALS in DC. I felt like I couldactually do something besides feel sad and helpless about mydad’s illness. We raised money for the walk and many of myfriends and other members of AMF joined me. Julie, 2013, GW
Mentoring Program Formerly called “Angels” Provides faculty mentors or role models for students in the support group, who can provide advice and support on campus. Faculty members are chosen by the members of the Support Group for their dedication to their students and their parent-like qualities.
Who we work with on campus Serve as a connector between students and the following resources for cross-referral: Faculty/staff Counseling and Psychiatric Services Faith-based organizations Other support groups Other service groups
How National helps our Chapters Distribute a Start-up guide and Support Group leader guide Connect with a Chapter Coordinator who serves as a guide and trouble-shooter Topical conference calls every 2 weeks Financial support Training through the National Conference, paid for with student scholarships Access to our expert Board of Mental Health Professionals Help to raise awareness on each campus Students of AMF is a great organization that needs continued support so that it may continue to support and help others. Jasmine, University of Buffalo, 2012
Overview of National Programming As the only national organization focused specifically on college student grief, AMF has become a primary resource for these students Our website, www.studentsofamf.org, averages 10,000 visits each month. Currently, there is a place for students to post on our Blog about their personal experiences; hope to do more in the future.
Overview of National Programming The annual National Conference on College Student Grief brings students, faculty, staff, and college mental health leaders together to discuss issues facing grieving college students and determine next steps.Although the keynote speeches and the presentations weregreat, the most valuable thing I got from the weekend was thesense of community. Being in a room full of students whohad gone through what I had gone through was indescribable.I felt a sense of belonging without even speaking with them.Stacey, 2013, University of Georgia
How is National run? 5 strategic areas Executive Leadership Team (1 full-time employee and about 12 unpaid “staff” members/volunteers) Board of Directors Board of Mental Health Professionals Board of Advisors National-Alumni/Student Council (NASC)
Students of AMF Support Group Service Group Mentoring
How we are unique Add to the available resources on campus and also connect students with available resources 100% free, no “criteria” Entirely student-lead and run Utilized group work and peer-support CONNECT With other students “who understand” With resources already available on campus to widen the campus safety net and connect students with appropriate resources on campus (e.g. counseling, campus ministry) EMPOWER To support one another Use service activities as a therapeutic avenue and also to attract new members
Last 5 years 37 official chapters, raised nation-wide awareness for this cause, supported well over one thousand students directly (estimate 1,685 grieving college students) from 147 different colleges and universities and thousands more students virtually. We measure our success by the impact we have had on each of our students and rely on their testimonials to inform and motivate us.
A few (more) Testimonials “I felt so alone and was ready to leave school completely, but getting involved with AMF changed everything.” Lucy, Western Oregon, 2010 “I know that all of our loved ones would truly appreciate all of the amazing support and friendship AMF provides.” – Loreal, UF ’12 “I found incredible strength in sharing my grief with others. And that feeling helped me get through the semester.” – Carolyn, UPenn ‘10
National Accomplishments 2007 BRICK Award winner, which placed the organization on network television (the CW) and on the back of 40 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos®. Selected as one of 10 Reader’s Digest “Make it Matter” stories of the year, 2008, which included a photo on the cover and article in the May 2008 issue. Featured on NBC’s Today Show, in USA Today, the Washington Post, etc. Humbled by the work we have ahead of us
Current Activities Host 4th annual National Conference on College Student Grief August 5-7 in Raleigh, NC Develop an Alumni Network to continue to connect and empower young adults “My involvement with AMF was the highlight of my college career, so I would really like to be able to give back and help other grieving college students in any way that I can.” Lucy, 2010, Western Oregon Continue to expand our chapters Unveil a national marketing campaign (VOICES campaign) Develop strategic partnerships with organizations like Camp Comfort Zone, NAGC, ADEC and NHF
Future Directions Develop partnerships with a select few foundations or corporations to ensure long-term funding and sustainability. Develop and implement new modalities to utilize social media (i.e. Twitter and skype) to serve as a connector and mode of support between grieving college students Expand national programming to include educational workshops on college campuses Provide research grants to researchers to conduct quantitative evaluations of Students of AMF chapters
What YOU can do for this population University professors: Be there for your students (“I am here”) Share with your students about National Students of AMF (www.StudentsofAMF.org) and other resources on campus (Deans, Campus Ministry, Counseling) Encourage your students to channel their energy towards positive outlets If a chapter begins, consider being Faculty Advisor or a Community Board member
What YOU can do for this population University Staff/Counselors/Community Bereavement Professionals: Share with your college students about AMF (www.StudentsofAMF.org) and other resources on campus (Deans, Campus Ministry, professors) Share with your colleagues about AMF Encourage your students to channel their energy towards positive outlets Attend the National Conference on College Student Grief on August 5 If a chapter begins, consider being Faculty Advisor or a Community Board member
What YOU can do for this population Students: Be there for one another during times of grief Share with other students about AMF (www.StudentsofAMF.org) Encourage your peers to channel their energy towards positive outlets Attend the National Conference on College Student Grief on August 5 Consider starting up a chapter of Students of AMF on your campus
What YOU can do for this population ALL: Consider becoming a part of the National Students of AMF Leadership Team (Board of Mental Health Professionals, ADEC-liaison, Hospice-Liaison, Children’s Bereavement Center-liaison, consistent volunteer position, event-only volunteer position) Serve as a “Voice in the Community” during our awareness campaigns Look into Bereavement Leave Policy (Heather Servaty- Seib) on your campus
ReferencesBalk, D. E. (2001). College student bereavement, scholarship, and the university: A call for university engagement. Death Studies, 25, 67-84.Balk, D. E. (2008). The 22-30% Prevalence Rate in College Student Bereavement: “So What?” In H. L. Servaty-Seib & D. J. Taub (Eds.), Assisting Bereaved College Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Jossey-Bass.Balk, D. E. & Vesta, L. C. (1998). Psychological development during four years of bereavement: A longitudinal case study. Death Studies, 22, 23-41.Fajgenbaum, D. C. (2007). College Student Bereavement: University Responses, Programs and Policies, and Recommendations for Improvement. Senior Thesis Submission. To be submitted for publication.Servaty-Seib, H. L. & Hamilton, L. A. (2006). Educational performance and persistence of bereaved college students. Journal of College Student Development, 47, 225-234.Silverman, P. R. (1987). “The impact of parental death on college-age women. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 10, 387-404.