Cornell University

Mental Health at Cornell

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Becoming a Health Promoting Campus

Cornell University Health Promoting CampusOn Wednesday, October 26, 2022, senior leaders from across Cornell University formally adopted the Okanagan Charter to become a Health Promoting Campus. Charter adoption signals Cornell’s commitment to support holistic well-being for students, staff, and faculty.


Cornell has long-recognized that promoting the health and well-being of all students, staff, and faculty is foundational for academic, work, and life success. Two examples of this commitment are Cornell's student Mental Health Framework, a comprehensive and integrated public health approach that reflects best practices to suicide prevention and mental health promotion, and the student Mental Health Review, a comprehensive review of Cornell’s campus climate identifying over 130 recommendations to support student mental health and well-being.

The work being done at Cornell aligns with the guiding principles of the Okanagan Charter. Adopting the charter at Cornell allows us to advance the spirit of the student Mental Health Review and employee wellbeing priorities in a systemic, sustainable way. At present, over 100 Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) are also listed as network members. Eight IHEs have already formally adopted the Okanagan Charter. Fourteen IHEs, including Cornell, are adopting the charter this fall.  

Health-promoting universities transform the health and sustainability of our current and future societies, strengthen communities, and contribute to the well-being of people, places, and the planet.

What is the Okanagan Charter?

  • The Okanagan Charter is a guiding and aspirational document that was developed as an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health-Promoting Universities and Colleges.
  • Health promotion scholars, researchers, practitioners, and administrators from 45 countries created this document with the purpose to guide colleges and universities, using their unique positions and roles in research, teaching, and service to their communities, to be leaders for the world in developing and modeling health-promoting strategies in their campus settings.
  • Local communities can learn from this example and modeling, thus influencing global health and well-being strategy. The key is moving beyond traditional approaches focused on individual behavior to upstream, systems-level, environmental strategies that influence the health and well-being of person, place, and planet.

Calls to action 

  • Embed health into all aspects of Cornell culture, across the administration, operations and academic mandates
  • Lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally

Guiding principles

  • Use settings and whole system approaches
  • Ensure comprehensive and campus-wide approaches
  • Use participatory approaches and engage the voices of students, staff, faculty, and others
  • Develop trans-disciplinary collaborations and cross-sector partnerships
  • Promote research, innovation and evidence-informed action
  • Build on strengths
  • Value local and indigenous communities’ contexts and priorities
  • Act on an existing universal responsibility

Benefits of becoming a health-promoting campus

Adopting the Okanagan Charter to become a health-promoting campus has many benefits: 

  • Demonstrate leadership: Formal adoption of the Okanagan Charter by senior leadership reaffirms Cornell’s commitment to furthering health, well-being, and sustainability and sends a powerful signal to the broader community.
  • Engage our community: The Okanagan Charter generates dialogue and research to inform health and well-being initiatives at Cornell and in the broader community.
  • Support the well-being of our community: Guide and inspire action to help faculty, staff, and students achieve their full potential in teaching, learning, research, and engagement. Evidence shows that people who are well are more productive, better able to engage in deeper learning, have a greater sense of belonging, and a stronger sense of community.


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