ICUNJ, New Jersey Schools and Over 500 Student-Facing Campus Staff, Mental Health Experts and Lawmakers Participate in Historic Conference
On January 10, 2024, New Jersey offered a ‘first in the nation’ collaborative event engaging all institutions of higher education in the state to combat the growing epidemic of mental health challenges facing New Jersey students from all walks of life. The 2022 initiative for a Summit grew from a plan developed by ICUNJ and its member institutions to a statewide effort expanding the topics, programs and offerings to support students. On a windy, cold, wintery day, the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, hosted over 500 campus mental health counsellors, student affairs staff, university presidents and other ‘student-facing’ campus personnel from over 40 of the state’s colleges and universities for an extraordinary and historic day of shared learning and best practices for responding to mental and behavioral health issues. Key state lawmakers, including Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way; Higher Education Secretary Brian Bridges; and mental health experts joined college participants for this inaugural Summit.
Legendary hip-hop artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and mental health advocate, Darryl ‘Run DMC’ McDaniels, provided an inspirational keynote address to set a positive tone for the day. The standing room only crowd enjoyed the humor and impact of his message. By highlighting his own mental health challenges, Darryl McDaniels relayed how looks were deceiving in his life and how it can be the same for our students. He encourages students – and everyone – to share their story with its strengths and weakness, and to seek help without fear of judgment or stigma.
Inspired by the opening program, participants disbursed from the Student Center to attend breakout session in adjacent classroom buildings. The 19 breakout sessions addressed some of the most critical issues occurring on our campuses with suggestions for addressing them by offering resources and programs that are reaching students and working to offset crisis situations.
While this was the first-ever statewide conference focused exclusively on mental health challenges and potential solutions — developed and organized by and for campus staff and their students – – it will most certainly not be the last. ICUNJ is proud to have played a key role in making this happen.