On Jan 18. President Petillo announced that Sacred Heart will become a JED Campus after partnering with the JED foundation which focuses on bringing awareness and providing resources on topics including mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.
In the email, Petillo says, “JED campus schools embark on a strategic partnership with JED that assesses and enhances existing work and helps to create positive, lasting systemic change in the campus community. This process also relates to House Bill 6402, which places new requirements on higher education institutions, including the creation of mental health coalitions at each campus.”
James Geisler, Director of Counseling, will be the new chair of the Mental Health Coalition. His prior experience is as a program manager and a child guidance therapist.
“The responsibility of being the chair of the mental health coalition at SHU aligns with my personal and professional strengths,” said Geisler. “I am passionate about enhancing the emotional well-being of university students, always eager to engage in leadership roles and excited for opportunities to be innovative.”
Starting this Spring semester, same-day counseling appointments will be offered Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in order to help support students who may be having a difficult time. These 30-minute appointments are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be scheduled by calling the main counseling line beginning at 8:30 a.m..
“I believe that the more conversations that we can facilitate across campus related to mental health, the more we create a campus where counseling is destigmatized, and where there is no shame in asking for help,” said Geisler. “The more we ask, ‘Are you OK?’ followed by ‘And it’s OK if you’re not, there are resources here on campus for you,’ the more we promote a community where conversations around wellness become a part of our campus culture.”
During the pandemic, some students have already started to realize the importance of taking care of their own mental health and well-being.
“I feel like other people have it worse than me, which is why I have always been afraid to speak up,” said senior Alana Proudian. “I soon realized that all of our problems matter and that we should be able to speak our minds and feel validated, especially during these times.”
However, before any major changes can take place, Larry Wielk, Dean of Students, says that there are some preliminary steps to be taken.
“The first steps of the process will be to do a campus wide ‘Healthy Minds’ survey of our entire campus community, which will likely be done in mid-March,” said Wielk. “This will allow all members of the campus community to provide feedback on our current programs and services, and to obtain a baseline of our campus needs moving forward for all populations.”
While some changes of this program are still to be determined, some students have already begun to see the effects in their own classrooms.
“In one of my classes, my professor added the new JED Program to her syllabus to advertise more awareness on this foundation,” said senior Alexandra Kennedy. “I believe that if every professor includes this in their syllabus, then it will reach every student.”
Although the JED initiative may have started just in time for some students, others who are graduating soon may not be able to fully experience it before they leave.
“As a senior graduating, I feel as though I lost some time here due to the pandemic,” said senior Grace Hurley. “It would make me feel more supported if I had access to these resources even after graduating.”
Nonetheless, Dean Wielk feels that given the rise in mental health issues at the university, this endeavor is one of the most important undertakings that Sacred Heart can be involved in with meeting the needs of the campus’ population.
“As we come out of the COVID crises, the mental health crisis is the next campus-wide pandemic, and we are in the midst of fighting it,” said Wielk. “JED should be a big help in bolstering our toolbox to fight this crisis and to provide a safe campus environment.”