Dare to Care hosted its “Speak Up for Mental Health” event for students in honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month on Sept. 25.
Great Minds Dare to Care is a “university-wide collaborative suicide prevention initiative designed to foster shared responsibility for building a community of care at Seton Hall,” according to the University.
Since 2008, September has been declared a special time to reflect on lives lost, acknowledge those who are affected by suicide and encourage people struggling with mental health issues to seek the assistance needed, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Donald Wagner, a sophomore psychology major, is a peer educator of Dare to Care.
He said its mission is “to create an open conversation around mental health and self-care in college life as well as foster an environment that is less stigmatizing for people reaching out for help with mental disorders.”
“Raising awareness on suicide prevention is vital because it sends the message to students that they are not alone,” Wagner said.
Another peer educator, Marco Fanik, a sophomore biology major, said Dare to Care demonstrated its commitment to this mission by hosting the event. Students were provided with various mental health resources, participated in games to win prizes, and filled out “I live for…” cards, he said.
He added that the cards “served to remind students that despite their struggles, they should continue fighting.”
Peer Educator, Meghna Thomas, a senior psychology major, said she organized and ran the event.
“When you find a reason, you have a will to keep going,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she was “thrilled at the turnout despite the inclement weather.”
Thomas said attendees collected bracelets with a special message of gratitude to give to their friends and spread the message that life matters. She also said they sported 988 suicide prevention hotline stickers on their water bottles and laptops.
“Seeing students’ eyes light up and eagerly learn about mental health resources, it was crystal clear to us as peer educators that what we’re doing is worth it, and our message that life and mental health are priorities is reaching students all over the campus,” Thomas said. “It was a step in the right direction but it’s only the beginning, and it never ends with one event. Our mission is ongoing, constant, and always growing.”
Prior to the event, Campus Ministry hosted a mass to commemorate Suicide Prevention Awareness Month on Sep. 24.
After the mass, Father Nick said he lit a large candle in memory of those the university community has lost and invited the congregation to light smaller candles for individuals they wanted to honor. He said although it was the first time a mass like this has been performed, it will not be the last.
Thomas said Dare to Care hopes to integrate the mass annually into the Sunday vigil.
“The mass served as an extension of Dare to Care’s message this month…that students affected by suicide are not alone, that they are unconditionally loved and that they always have a place to find solace and understanding here on campus,” Thomas said.
In 2023, more than 60 percent of college students said they struggle with their mental health daily, a 50 percent increase from 2013, according to the National Education Association,
Father Nick said Campus Ministry is another tool that students can utilize. He added that many students don’t realize they can speak to the priests on campus.
“Whether students have a priest teaching their class, see one of us getting coffee, or just walking across the green…they can stop us and talk about anything they have on their minds,” Father Nick said. “We are a confidential resource…whether you’re religious or not, we are there to support you.”
Father Nick said there are multiple resources to support students’ mental health on campus other than Campus Ministry.
“We are trained in supporting students, and if we can’t help you ourselves we will direct you to someone who can,” Father Nick said. “Our faith teaches us to care for one another. We know life isn’t perfect, but we’re all on the same journey and sometimes you just need a little bit of help to keep going.”
Dean Turon, Dare to Care’s advisor, said there is no single strategy or resource that works for everyone.
“Applications for peer educators open in October, and we are always looking for organizations to partner with,” Turon said. “If you are in a club and want to have a program focused on mental health and suicide prevention, Dare to Care can assist in turning that idea into reality.”
Counseling and Psychological Services offers “a wide range of therapeutic services designed to foster the psychological health and well-being of our students in order to help them to thrive, develop, and achieve academic and personal success,” according to the University.
Gianna Terrarosa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org