SHU Sorority Founds First CT Chapter of Active Minds

News Story:

Nu Epsilon Omega, a sorority at Sacred Heart University, is launching the first Connecticut chapter of Active Minds, a national peer-to-peer organization focused on raising awareness of mental health issues among college students.

The sorority is creating the chapter with a $2,000 grant received in the fall from Connecticut Clearinghouse.

“Suicide awareness has long been one of our causes, along with domestic-violence awareness,” says East Rockaway, N.Y., resident Katie Savarese, a senior nursing major and president of Nu Epsilon Omega. “Starting an Active Minds chapter is a great way to incorporate the mental illness aspect also, because people don’t always understand that suicide isn’t just depression. Rather than just making it a sorority effort, I thought it would really be a great way to get the whole campus united to do something for suicide awareness. I hope it can be a huge community thing.”

Savarese co-founded the SHU Active Minds chapter with junior Kaileen Paiva and senior Jenna Morales. The group will plan suicide awareness events, some in conjunction with the national organization, and run fundraisers for mental health causes.

“They don’t pretend to do any amount of treatment or diagnosis or anything like that,” says Jocelyn Novella, a personal counselor in the SHU Counseling Center and co-advisor (along with Dean of Freshman Admissions Karen Guastelle) of Active Minds. “It’s just to increase awareness, and to get people who need help to the Counseling Center or to outside resources.”

Though the chapter won’t begin actively planning events until the beginning of the spring semester, Savarese generated seed interest by sending a global email to the entire SHU community—students, faculty, administration and staff—before the Christmas break. “We’ve received tons of responses,” she says. “We have a bunch of people from all different parts of the university who are interested in Active Minds. So it looks like it’s going to be big, and I’m excited about that.”

Novella says that while she’s impressed with the idea for an Active Minds chapter, she’s even more impressed by the initiative shown by the three students who have founded it. “They did this pretty much on their own,” Novella says. “They wrote the grant, which is very unusual for undergraduate students, and they chose this cause. I think they deserve a lot of credit.”

According to its website, “Active Minds is a national organization that develops and supports student-run mental health awareness, education, and advocacy groups on the college campus. Each peer group works to increase students’ awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources regarding mental health and mental illness, encourage students to seek help as soon as it is needed, and serve as liaison between students and the mental health community. By planning campus-wide events that promote awareness and education, the group aims to remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness and create a comfortable environment for open discussion of mental health issues."

Nu Epsilon Omega was founded in 1978 by 12 young women who wished to foster “new concepts and ideas” about sorority and college life. Today the sorority’s sisters remain socially active in many clubs and organizations, and host numerous events on campus. Membership consists of a diverse group consisting of commuters and residents from different states, as well as a foreign country.