JCU grant focuses on mental, spiritual health of students

January 28th, 2010

ceived a $100,000 grant from the Xavier-Nichols Foundation, a local family-run foundation.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Mark McCarthy, the Foundation met with the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J., president of JCU, before the beginning of the semester, wishing to give money to the University.

“[The foundation] came to JCU interested in helping and wanted to give a gift,” said McCarthy.

According to McCarthy, the Foundation was interested in the health and welfare of the students. He was then given the task of drafting a proposal for how the University would use the grant to promote mental and spiritual health on campus.

A portion of the grant has already been given to the Counseling Center to hire an additional counselor.

According to John Ropar, director of the counseling center, there was a 23 percent increase in students seeking help from the counseling center last year.

“The timing of this grant and the generosity of the donors couldn’t be better. The reasons for the increase in the number of students accessing

counseling services are complex and deserve all the attention that the field can give it, but the numbers don’t lie. More young people are struggling with emotional distress than ever,” said Ropar.

The grant will also be used to fund the Campus Connect Program: a Suicide Prevention Training for Gatekeepers, which the University first considered implementing last fall. This program provides training for students, faculty and administrators to increase awareness and gain skills in recognizing depression in others and preventing suicide.

The training will begin sometime this semester. Those who are in contact with students most will be the first to receive training. This includes student organization leaders, resident assistants, deans and the student affairs staff.

Once trained, these ‘gatekeepers’ will be able to recognize signs of depression and have a better understanding of how to confront someone and get them help.

“This helps us to provide direct service to the students who need it,” said McCarthy.

The University will also obtain mental health assessment and screening software, which will help in the diagnosis and treatment of depression and other mental health issues.

Additionally, the grant will be used to fund collaborative programming by the departments of Residence Life, Campus Ministry, Health Services and Recreation. These programs will focus on a myriad issues including community building, stress reduction, nutrition, spiritual wellness and risky alcohol use. JCU also hopes to sponsor a parent education program, increase awareness week campaigns and update the University’s Web site to include mental health resources.

Although Ropar wishes JCU students could avoid the increasing stress and pressure college students face, he realizes they are affected by these issues.

“I would like to think that John Carroll is somehow insulated from this fact, but we aren’t. Thoughtful contributions like we have received give us the chance to provide more services to more students,” said Ropar.

McCarthy agreed that the best way to help JCU students is to offer as much help as possible.

McCarthy said,  “There are many things we want to put into action. We are very thankful for the foundation’s help.”