SOUTH ORANGE — Mental health assistance is nothing new on college campuses, but some institutions are going above and beyond to reduce stigma surrounding the sensitive topic and ensure that any student who needs help, finds it.

Following its designation as a stigma-free campus in 2018, Seton Hall University is going on its third year of running the Great Minds Dare to Care initiative, which provides students and staff with trainings, resources, and activities related to managing mental health.

"The focus is to build a community of care where everyone is involved in suicide prevention," said Dianne Aguero-Trotter, SHU's director of counseling and psychological services.

The investments, such as a 24/7 hotline for SHU students who have a psychological emergency, along with a wellness room and subscriptions to online platforms like Headspace, are made possible by a $250,000 yearly grant from the state of New Jersey.

Aguero-Trotter noted the university launched this initiative when classes were still running in a remote format due to COVID-19. Its true potential can be better realized with students on campus, and mental health assistance may be critical for students still reeling from the pandemic.

"We're seeing students want more in-person services, wanting to come into the counseling center and not through telehealth," she said.

Former Gov. Richard Codey decalred SHU as a stigma-free campus in May 2018 as part of the Codey Fund for Mental Health.

According to research from Boston University, there was a 135% increase in depression and a 110% increase in anxiety among college students between 2013 and 2021.

The New Jersey Assembly approved legislation in late June that would increase access to mental health services on college campuses. Under the College Mental Health Services Act, institutions would receive grants for three years to, among other moves, hire additional mental health professionals and develop initiatives to reduce wait times for students seeking services.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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