FAIRFIELD, Conn.— Sacred Heart University has formed a campus-wide mental health coalition to embark on a comprehensive needs study that will assess and enhance SHU’s wide-ranging student wellness programs.
To accomplish this, the University has partnered with The Jed Foundation (JED), a nationwide, nonprofit, suicide-prevention program focused on teens and young adults. The foundation guides school leaders through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, programs and policy development to build upon existing student mental-health initiatives, including substance misuse and suicide prevention programs.
“Over the past few years, as we have dealt with the COVID pandemic, we also have witnessed a significant increase in mental health issues among the members of our community,” said University President John J. Petillo. “In fact, many say that mental health is the next campus-wide epidemic that those of us in higher education must be prepared to deal with to move past the pandemic and best serve the needs of our student populations.
“This is an important undertaking that is vital to our day-to-day efforts of ensuring the well-being of our campus community,” Petillo said.
James Geisler, SHU’s director of counseling, will chair the new coalition. He said members will look at all programming with an eye on equity and inclusion. “It says a lot about Sacred Heart that we are partnering with JED,” he said. “We offer many different services, for both individuals and groups. Our counselors take an active approach with outreach, and we will be taking a close look at evidence-based practices.”
Coalition members were recruited from areas throughout the University, including athletics, academics, multicultural affairs, public safety, residential life and campus ministry.
SHU has a host of mental health and wellness initiatives tailored to specific groups whose members might need support, such as athletes or students navigating relationships and career choices. For instance, Project Connect is a peer-led effort to assist those looking to meet new people and build friendships. “We are creating opportunities for understanding and meeting the needs of those who come to us,” Geisler said, “but what about those who don’t? I would love to see what more we can do.”
Coalition meetings will begin this semester.
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers nearly 90 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 387 Colleges–2022 Edition, “Best Northeastern” and Best Business Schools–2022 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theatre. www.sacredheart.edu
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