ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Senior leaders of the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees announced plans to use a $24M fund from the American Rescue Plan to expand mental health and wellness services across their campuses. These expanded on-campus programs will include after-hours care, the creation of well-being spaces, the hiring of new staff, suicide prevention programming, emergency mini-grants to students who seek off-campus support, and broader training for counseling center staff, among other timely interventions.

SUNY campuses are also focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to improve overall student mental health. SUNY plans to strengthen peer to peer counseling opportunities and physical wellness programs. Some of these programs include the following-

  • Binghamton University is hiring an additional divisional diversity officer whose addition to the staff will allow for a greater focus in addressing student mental health concerns amongst diverse populations.
  • SUNY Potsdam is creating a Diversity Mindfulness Room in the campus’ Center for Diversity, where BIPOC students will have access to resources and tools that can aid in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression and promote emotional- and self-regulation.
  • Farmingdale State College is organizing a de-stressing festival next spring and providing access to therapy dogs.
  • Jamestown Community College is entering into partnerships with Chautauqua County’s Suicide Prevention Alliance, Department of Mental Hygiene, and the county’s Mental Health Services to create events to broaden awareness of wellness services for students, families, and staff.

“The availability of the American Rescue Plan funding has allowed our campuses to be even more innovative and comprehensive in their approach to mental health and wellness services—hiring more experts to increase on-site counseling and creating opportunities to expand wellness and social activities,” said SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley. “Our students continue to face mental health challenges, and they are looking to SUNY to provide them with accessible resources and supports to uplift their overall well-being. This one-time federal funding, coupled with ongoing New York State investment in mental health and wellness services, will ensure that these programs continue for each class of SUNY students.”

The heightened attention to mental health concerns comes on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder have increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021, with most significant increases occurring among young adults aged 18-29.