A new state grant of more than $460,000 will allow Stockton University to expand its mental health resources.
A new Student Wellness Room, a new community outreach coordinator and additional funds to provide mental health first-aid training are some of the uses of the $461,682 coming from the Mental Health in Higher Education: Community Provider Partnership and Professional Development Grant from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
“Receiving this grant enhances our mental health services and provides additional support for our students’ health, well-being and sense of belonging, which are important indicators in student success,” Dr. Zupenda Davis, Stockton’s assistant vice president for student health and wellness, said.
Nearly $220,000 will go toward the costs for design and construction of a new Student Wellness Room. Davis said the room — the location of which is still to be determined — will serve many functions, including giving students a more private place for virtual clinical sessions and to “be in their own bubble.”
“This is also helpful for students who may be neurodivergent, which includes various conditions such as autism, ADHD, social anxiety and sensory processing disorders,” she said. “This gives them that privacy or opportunity to take a break, especially if they are in an environment where it’s too noisy or creates anxiety.”
More than $100,000 is earmarked for consultant and training services, including a partnership with the Mental Health Association of Atlantic County to provide mental health first-aid training and QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) training for suicide prevention.
The grant will also allow Stockton to become a member of the JED Campus Program, which is a nationwide initiative of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teenagers and young adults. Davis said the four-year partnership is geared toward underrepresented or underserved students.
“When you have regular life stress on top of stressors due to bias, racism, microaggressions and biases from being LGBTQ+, for example, it helps to assess if our students are experiencing those things and what are the strategies to help with those unique risks,” she said, adding that rates of suicide are higher among people of color and LGBTQ+ youth.
The new community outreach coordinator will be a full-time position that will facilitate students’ connections to off-campus clinical and nonclinical mental health resources, especially ones that may not be available at Stockton. The grant will not only benefit students, but faculty and staff as well, Davis said. It’s providing money for Stockton to host nine professional development workshops on topics such as mental health in a multicultural context and supporting faculty and staff mental health while supporting others.
“We want to make sure we provide as many resources as we can that provide a more comprehensive approach to mental health,” Davis said. “This grant offers that in many different ways.”
In addition to this grant from the state, Stockton is also part of a statewide partnership with the mental health and wellness platform Uwill to provide free, private, secure and confidential access to teletherapy to students, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Help is available by calling 833-646-1526 or going to app.uwill.com.
Davis said the Uwill program and the additional grant money from the state continue to show the state’s and the university’s commitment to improving mental health on campus.
“I’m excited about it because it’s going to increase the capacity of our existing mental health resources that we give to our students,” Davis said. “We have our counseling center. We have other resources on campus, but, as you can imagine, with the increased need for mental health resources, we are just at our capacity. We want to be able to do more than we are doing, and this allows us to complement what we already do.”