Governor Richard Codey joined President Susan Cole and members of the campus community on May 3 to announce Montclair State University’s participation with The Codey Fund by officially becoming a stigma-free campus.
In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, attendees honored the achievements of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the university in helping students with mental health issues and announced the school’s involvement with The Codey Fund. The mission is “to ensure that compassionate, quality mental healthcare is accessible to everyone and that the stigma associated with mental illness is overcome through public awareness and education.”
Codey, along with Rocky the Red Hawk, unveiled the first of two stigma-free signs that will stand around campus. A flag was also raised in honor of The Codey Fund to promote awareness of mental health and its stigma across the campus. The two signs around campus will illustrate that the university will not participate in common stigmas associated with mental health issues.
The aim of the fund was highlighted by high statistics regarding university students who failed to seek help for mental health issues. The speaker said the mission will, “work towards [these figures] decline.”
The governor also raised a main issue with the beliefs surrounding mental illnesses and how talking with others is difficult because of the stigma against them. However, having personal experience with handling mental health issues, the governor’s solution is: “You got to talk about it.”
Codey ended the ceremony with this advice in supporting others with mental issues. “In life, there are three words you need to say at the correct time. These three words are please, thanks and sorry. If you say these at the right time in your relationships, you will have a better life and probably better mental health.”
Dr. Sudha Wadhwani, the coordinator of outreach and prevention at CAPS who has been with the program since September of 2006 said, “We are really working to decrease mental health stigma on campus so these signs will help give visibility to all the programs that we provide on campus to increase access to support for students. We hope there will be more visibility. We hope there will be more conversations around mental health and that it will be less of a ‘hush hush’ type issue.”
Wadhwani also said, “We really want people to know that we all are affected by mental health.”
The newly-unveiled signs will spread this awareness and make individuals with illnesses more accepted. Freshman Jennifer Guzman and Senior Jennifer Okorie are both CAPS ambassadors who attended the event. Okorie became involved with CAPS during her junior year. She said that working with CAPS is great “to just help the campus and the students who need it.”
Guzman, who is friends with Okorie, said “I’ve always been passionate on mental health. I know there’s a huge stigma on it. I found that it was really beneficial for me to enter CAPS because I struggle with mental illnesses as well, so I learned about the resources, and the training helped tremendously.”
The Red Hawk News email said that Montclair State “believes that the stigma-free signs on campus will spark awareness and conversations regarding mental health as well as other important stigma-related conversations that foster the health and advancement of our community.”