Seton Hall receives $250,000 grant from state to fund mental health initiative

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Seton Hall University has been granted $250,000 by the state of New Jersey to fund its Great Minds Dare to Care campaign, according to a Jan. 6 press release. Provided through the N.J. Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the grant will support the university’s ongoing efforts to change attitudes about mental health and mental illness, eliminate barriers to accessing mental health care, and to foster a sense of community and caring that improves the lives of all students — and ultimately prevents the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness that can sometimes lead to suicidal behavior.

In May 2018, state Sen. Richard Codey came to campus to mark Seton Hall’s membership in the Stigma Free initiative spearheaded by the Codey Fund for Mental Health. The organization’s signature sign, declaring Seton Hall a “Stigma Free” campus, was placed prominently at the entrance to the University Center and unveiled by the former New Jersey governor as part of the initiative to bring greater awareness to mental health issues and help remove barriers to access to mental health care.

“Now more than ever as we face the coronavirus pandemic and the isolation, distress and carnage it has wrought, mental health and well-being is of paramount importance,” Codey said. “Last year we noted that teenage suicide was up 70 percent in the last 10 years and that more Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease or cancer. This year, the pandemic has exacerbated what many had already described as a mental health epidemic. But we’re here to tell you that help is here, and more is on the way.”

The Stigma Free campaign was designed to promote public awareness of mental health issues and solutions, create conversations, and work toward overcoming stigmas, stereotyping, discrimination and removing barriers to recovery. The Great Minds Dare to Care campaign is the next step in that process.

“From its inception in 1856, Seton Hall has prided itself on being a home for the mind, heart and spirit,” Seton Hall President Joseph Nyre said. “Thanks to Gov. Codey, the Great Minds Dare to Care campaign will help to ensure we continue as that home by further fostering the psychological health and well-being of our students, which will enable them to thrive, develop and achieve both academic and life success.” 

The campaign will be spearheaded on campus by the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services, known as CAPS, in collaboration with Student Services.

“Numerous studies have shown that the need for psychological support and counseling across our colleges and universities continues to grow,” CAPS Director and clinical psychologist Dianne Aguero-Trotter said. “It takes a community to truly address the growing concerns successfully. The Great Minds Dare to Care campaign will involve many from across our campus to help create a community of care for our students. It will offer programming and training that will prepare community members to recognize the signs of mental illness, offer empathy, establish personal connections, build resilience and reduce barriers to seeking help — all of which will reduce the risks of suicide and create a healthier community overall.”

CAPS provides a broad array of confidential mental health services to undergraduate and graduate students on all three campuses of the university in South Orange, Newark and Nutley-Clifton.

In addition to prominent guest speakers on the topics of mental well-being, community and self-care, a vast array of programming and training is planned as part of the Great Minds Dare to Care initiative, including:

  • Dare to Take the Pledge: a campaign encouraging community members to take the Codey Fund for Mental Health pledge to be stigma-free and to accept the “dare” to be a part of the university’s caring community.
  • Dare to Share: a video contest where students will be asked to create a public service announcement related to reducing mental health stigma.
  • Dare to Learn: a program to offer Kognito At-Risk suicide prevention training to students, faculty and staff to build their capacity to engage in difficult conversations around mental health, as well as their comfort in making a referral to CAPS.
  • Dare to Listen: a campaign to invite faculty, staff and administrators who are willing to serve and to provide support to students struggling with mild emotional distress. The program will provide training to these volunteers to increase their comfort in making referrals when necessary.
  • Dare to Speak Out: Bystander intervention training will be offered to all students.
  • Dare to Express Gratitude: Students will be offered a free journal with instruction on making daily entries focused on gratitude, which is associated with improved well-being.
  • Dare to Help: Students will be challenged to perform random acts of kindness, engage in training that helps them learn how to help others in distress and reach out to students they don’t know.
  • Dare to Serve: Students will be encouraged to volunteer their time as a way of finding personal meaning while building connection within the community.
  • Dare to Feel: A program to bring the Active Minds Send Silence Packing exhibit to campus.

Located in Mooney Hall, CAPS provides free year-round counseling, crisis intervention, consultation and referral services to members of the SHU community. CAPS is currently offering telehealth.