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Wellness Education: Shifting the Focus to Primary Prevention

Wellness is more than the absence of illness or disease. The National Wellness Institute defines it as "A conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential." Wellness education incorporates a wide variety of activities designed to promote and support this process.

What is wellness education?

Colleges and universities across the US have long focused on physical wellness. From the early 1800s, students at many institutions of higher education have been required or encouraged to participate in physical fitness classes. It is only a more recent development in the last 30 years, as levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among college students have increased, that there has been a shift to attending to mental and relational wellness as well. Programs are expanding rapidly at many universities and campuses are increasingly likely to house counseling and health services in a unified student wellness center.

Why is wellness education important?

Our center’s interest in wellness education stems from a dedication to preventing suicide. Historically, this work focused on intervention during a personal crisis and in those moments when risk for suicidal behavior was greatest. Next came a focus on early identification and treatment for those with multiple risk factors. The ‘upstream’ work in the field of suicide prevention is wellness education.

Wellness education can take many forms. Some universities offer courses in wellness for which the students receive credit. Others offer a series of programs that help students manage common life challenges ( e.g., transitioning to college, handling relationship difficulty, managing stress, etc.)

Wellness education can be taught via online courses, in seminar form or discussion groups. The skills learned also help students better identify when additional help is needed for oneself or a friend.

We’ve created a list of online wellness education resources that are available to all Virginia campuses. For more information, go to:

Online Wellness and Resilience Education Resources