SAAC Strides Towards Mental Health Awareness with Support Awareness and Care Initiative

By Nicole Fitzsimmons, News Editor

In coming weeks, the Manhattan College Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will begin bringing their “Support Awareness and Care Initiative” to campus for students to access important mental health resources.

This semester, SAAC began spearheading the initiative to create accessible items such as bag tags and phone wallets with business cards which provide important resources for students. These items would include public safety’s phone number, public safety’s 24 hour number, 911, the suicide prevention number and the sexual assault awareness number.  The business cards will also include a linktree with various other essential resources regarding students’ wellbeing.

This idea was brought to the table by senior exercise major and vice president of SAAC, Teddy Segmuller, when she noticed at conferences that numerous other schools had crisis numbers printed on their student IDs. When Segmuller brought this idea to senior exercise major and SAAC president Kaya Simpson, he was immediately on board.

“At first I was hesitant because I didn’t want the college to think that they weren’t doing enough, that was one of my main concerns,” Segmuller said. “But as a student, I really think that these resources are a necessity and people shouldn’t have to ask where the Counseling Center is or, ‘Where do I go for this information?’ I want it all to be available for students.”

In the coming semesters, SAAC is planning to begin printing out all new student’s ID cards with crisis numbers. Due to budgetary restrictions, they thought it would not be feasible to do this this semester, as it would mean replacing current ID cards. 

Yet, SAAC believes getting these resources immediately out to students in multiple ways can increase the level of awareness on campus for student athletes and students not on a sports team combined.

“I just hope that when people see that two students … are taking a stance like this, that they can have a bigger voice as well and they can be comfortable speaking about this kind of stuff,” Simpson said. “And, we want to make sure that everyone has access to the same resources that everyone else on campus has.”

Segmuller and Simpson brought this idea to various administrators as a means to begin the process of making this a campus wide initiative. Administrators like vice president of student life Ronald Gray, director of the Counseling Center Jennifer McArdle and dean of students  Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, thought this was a perfect way to further address students’ needs. 

“Students always have the best ideas,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “They know what they need, they know what campus they’d like to live in. So when people come excited to talk to me about an effort, I get very lit up usually because, like I said, students have the best ideas.”

Abreu-Hornbostel further believes the initiative is a sign of growth of the conversation about awareness amongst students on campus.

“What that [the initiative] made me think was that the work we had started with the Well Being and Flourishing Council last year was paying off because people were beginning to pay attention to campus wide well-being initiatives and campus wide efforts for the flourishing of our students. That’s what made me excited. So I was like, alright, great. It’s working. It’s picking up, people are having wonderful ideas,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. 

Simpson further emphasized these ideas because he recognizes that sometimes it can be difficult for administrators to entirely understand the needs of students in society’s current climate.

“We are in a big change right now in society and obviously, we’ve all been through COVID. We’ve experienced such impactful events and sometimes it’s harder for an older generation to recognize the different aspects that come along with us being affected by these events,” Simpson said.

SAAC’s new logo for their Support Awareness and Care Initiative. SAAC/ COURTESY

Shawn Ladda, department chairperson and professor of kinesiology, is a big supporter of SAAC’s efforts and of the initiative. She said that access and education is an essential part of ensuring the stability of students in the MC community.

“The College prioritizes the overall development of students in spirit, mind, and body.  This is an example which helps students maximize their mental wellness.  Education is key for the community to know one is more mentally well if they recognize a challenge and seek counseling rather than being in denial.Knowing where to go to get help is essential,” Ladda wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.

In upcoming years, Segmuller told The Quadrangle she hopes to see initiatives continue to grow and create greater educational opportunities for students.

“I think that this is one area of Manhattan College that we can elevate and grow and continue to elevate and grow,” Segmuller said. “And my overall hope for this initiative is that every student moving forward, all of the classes that are coming in, on the back of their ID cards, it’ll actually be printed with all of these numbers so that we don’t have to be making alternative items, because I think that is one area where we are lacking. But again, there’s opportunity for growth and I think that the administration has responded in a very positive and open minded way.”