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Geneseo to Hold First Mental Health Town Hall

In the spring of 2016, Geneseo’s Mental Health Task Force (MHTF) conducted a survey among faculty and staff. Among the findings:  81 percent of respondents (128 out of 158) agreed with the statement, “I have a role in supporting student mental health.”

On Thursday, March 1, the campus community is invited to join that effort by attending the College’s first Mental Health Town Hall in Newton 214, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The event is open to students, faculty and staff.

“Student mental health is a shared responsibility at Geneseo — and an important issue for all institutions of higher education,” said Bob Bonfiglio, vice president for Student and Campus Life. Bonfiglio has written a number of articles dealing with mental health needs and trends on college campuses, including a chapter titled “Anticipating the Future of Mental Health Needs on Campus” in College Student Mental Health, New Directions for Student Services (winter 2016). The book was recognized with the 2017 Excellence in Counseling Center Scholarship Award by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

“The town hall is intended to provide a forum for both airing the concerns of the campus community and sharing information on the many resources available to support student mental health,” he added.

Laura Swanson, staff counselor at the Lauderdale Center for Student Health & Counseling, serves as chairperson for the MHTF, whose 30 members represent 18 departments on campus. She and task force member Sam Cardamone, associate director of Study Abroad in the Office of International Programs and the town hall event chairperson, have made several campus presentations to help raise awareness of the event.

“The Town Hall is our latest initiative to learn how we can better work together as a campus to promote mental health and to learn how Geneseo is tracking with national trends,” Swanson  said. The event will provide an overview of available resources and services, feature a panel discussion to provide varied perspectives on mental health and wellness, and allow time for an open forum for questions and comments. “Our theme is ‘ Join the Conversation’  because we’d like to start a campus-wide dialogue and create a supportive community to promote positive mental health,” she explained. 

Other MHTF initiatives have included campus-wide surveys for students, faculty and staff;  Kognito Gatekeeper Training, which offers online, interactive courses to help users learn how to approach at-risk students and to make appropriate referrals to campus support services; the Red Folder initiative; and a JED Campus Program site visit in November 2016, which culminated in a strategic plan for mental health provided by the JED Foundation. 

— By Tony Hoppa