The new executive board of the Student Government Association devised a campaign to improve and raise awareness on students’ mental health.
This SGA effort follows Seton Hall being ranked third on The Princeton Review’s “Least Happy Students” list. The group first introduced their six-step plan of action through Instagram on March 16.
Jayde Dieu, a sophomore English and political science double major, was newly elected as SGA president. Dieu said that mental health support and useful resources are essential to producing successful students.
“We believe that mental health is at the top of the pyramid, and one that’s not strong and secure,” Dieu said. “I think the school is more keen to invest in other things because there’s more concrete results, but we want to prove that that’s not always the case.”
Meghan O’Brien, a sophomore creative writing and political science double major, was elected as secretary. O’Brien said the first two steps of the campaign involve surveying students’ needs and determining the best way to serve them.
“For as much as students are investing in this institution, there is absolutely no reason Seton Hall should be ranked third on the list of unhappiest students,” O’Brien said. “And unfortunately, that statistic is not just a result of the mediocre mental health services here – it’s a result of a much bigger issue that needs addressing, as well.”
O’Brien said the third step is to increase student accessibility to mental health services. This includes advertising mental health resources regularly and improving the service quality of the Counseling and Psychological Services hotline.
“Everyone who calls should have their needs prioritized and met regardless of the severity of their current state,” O’Brien said. “There is a certain toxic culture at Seton Hall that blatantly ignores the needs of some students here, and, at the end of the day, that is unacceptable.”
Dieu added that the group is keen on providing solutions and accessibility.
“Blanket solutions won’t work,” Dieu said. “I think CAPS, the way it’s operating now, is like a blanket solution, but there’s a difference between availability and accessibility. So, are they advertising it in a way that’s accessible to students?”
Rahana Suresh, a sophomore management major, was elected SGA vice president. Suresh said that it is important the group acts “not as another branch of administration, but as the true and honest representative of the student body.”
Dieu said the fourth step is characterized by the appointment of a CAPS liaison. She added that the fifth step is to consult local minority counseling services in order to strengthen CAPS’s connections to outside resources.
“There’s a lack of representation in CAPS, and we understand that it is supposed to be temporary and then they refer you elsewhere, but a lot of times they don’t have diversity in their referrals as well,” Dieu said.
O’Brien said the final step is to host a mental health convention for colleges in New Jersey aimed towards improving mental health across the board.
“If I’ve learned one thing this past term, it’s that there is so much untouched potential here in SGA,” O’Brien said.
She added that the next executive board requires “the willingness to take a stand for what the students want and stir things up a little bit if necessary.”
O’Brien added that the group wants to prioritize the mental health of sexual assault survivors, minority groups and the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“The most essential parts of our plan involve not only making mental health help more accessible, but relevant to everyone here regardless of their race, background, sexuality, or gender identity,” O’Brien said. “This could be an initial step to not only improving mental health, but also transforming the culture here into something that is much more inclusive than it has been historically.”
Ross Pantano, a junior business management major, was elected treasurer. Pantano said he became interested in SGA once he heard about the harassment against women in the gymnasium.
“I want to give a voice to survivors and invest more in students’ mental health,” Pantano said. “As a brother of two younger sisters, the fact that people can get away with treating women this way makes me sick to my stomach.”
Dieu said that while there is often a disconnect between students and politics, the group has marketed their campaign such that the policies are clear, yet “fun and interactive.”
“We use TikTok and Instagram, and I think sometimes it may seem a bit casual for a campaign, but that’s exactly what we want – we want it to be accessible,” Dieu said.
Peyton Hruska can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.