FGCU College Students Make Mental Health Awareness and Advocacy a Priority
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression among college students have increased substantially. In an academic year, a third of students on campuses meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis.
Each year, approximately 24,000 college students attempt suicide while 1,100 students succeed in their attempt, making it the second leading cause of death among college students in the United States.
Jack Hellmer, a Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) interdisciplinary entrepreneurship senior and Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity brother, developed UB You, a tool to help students assess their stress that resulted in a one-year agreement with the university to use the app as a counseling screener.
While developing the app, Hellmer learned that the school counseling center was having trouble keeping up with the growing demand of students requesting help, and he knew more needed to be done on campus to bring awareness to these common issues.
Each year, FGCU ATO chooses a charity to support for their philanthropic endeavors. Hellmer introduced the ATO board to the DLC mission and encouraged them to consider a mental health partner. ATO is known as America’s Leadership Development Fraternity because of its strong emphasis on preparing its members to be leaders on their Campus and in the community.
Over the past year, ATO nationally donated more than the equivalent of $8.1 million worth of dollars donated and hours served to philanthropies and communities.
FGCU ATO brothers wanted to choose a local charity where they could see their support in action vs a national non-profit. After touring the DLC main campus in Naples to learn more about the services, the chose DLC as their annual charity of choice.
“Our brothers began this grassroots movement to support our local community’s mental health through the education of available resources to our fellow students and through raising much needed funds for DLC,” added Hellmer. “Our brothers built a strong connection to DLC and have seen overwhelming support for our efforts.”
The brother’s hard work and passion paid off, resulting in $16,600 for DLC programs and far exceeding any other fundraising efforts in the fraternity’s history. The funds were raised during campus-wide fundraising events and activities held in 2022.
“Being able to witness first-hand what DLC can do with the money we raise gives me peace of mind knowing that people who’re struggling mentally will get the help they deserve,” shared ATO Signature Event Chair Quinn Griffin, who helped spearhead the DLC fundraising efforts. “It is our mission to support DLC so that the people who don’t have the strength to fight for themselves can.”
The fraternity’s efforts to support DLC didn’t stop at Philanthropy Week. When DLC put out a critical appeal for advocacy support to the community in February 2023, ATO members attended the Collier County Board of Commissioners meeting showing their support for the new Collier Central Receiving Facility location near DLC. The advocacy effort paid off and the board voted 4-1 in favor of the new location for the 102-bed crisis assessment center that DLC will manage once construction is complete.
In March, the FGCU ATO chapter sponsored the DLC 55th Anniversary Sound Minds Celebration and 14 members attended the fundraiser to hear the keynote address from mental health advocate and academy award-winning actress Goldie Hawn.
FGCU ATO will continue their DLC partnership and raise money for their mission at the 2023 FGCU Philanthropy Week in April. Fundraising activities will include: Pie an Alpha Tau, Dunkan Alpha Tau, a carnival, and a brunch.
“We are excited to continue our mission to improve the lives four fellow students and community members through our presence on campus and through DLC,” added Hellmer.
To make a donation towards the FGCU ATO Mental Health Philanthropy Mission, visit ATO.crowdchange.co/29914/donate.
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