The Center for Prevention and Outreach on the third floor of the Student Activities Center. CPO has launched two programs to help students to connect with counselors. BRIANNE LEDDA/STATESMAN FILE

The Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO) launched two programs named, “Let’s Talk” and “Resilience, Empowerment, Access, Care and Healing (R.E.A.C.H.) Groups” for Stony Brook students to connect with counselors and peers concerning their mental health and emotional needs. 

“Let’s Talk” provides brief, informal meetings with counselors by appointment both in-person and virtually. Students can confidentially meet with one of four different CPO counselors to discuss any struggles they may be experiencing and actions they can take towards relieving stress or worries. 

Appointments are offered throughout the week along with in-person drop-ins on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the LGBTQ+ Center and Thursdays 7 to 8 p.m. at the Recreation and Wellness Center. 

Danielle Merolla, the associate director of CPO and one of the four “Let’s Talk” counselors, has been at Stony Brook for the past five years working with mental health outreach. 

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“It’s something we really want students to make sure they know is available to them on campus,” Merolla said. “It’s free, confidential conversations with the counselors, it’s not therapy.” 

The service encourages students to recognize when they are feeling agitated, withdrawn or hopeless and are not caring for or feeling like themselves. These signs of stress, known as the red flags, are used as guides for when students may want to consider reaching out to a counselor at “Let’s Talk” to connect with. 

Majumdar Das has been with CPO for 14 years, serving as the director for the past four years. She explained that the paperwork and steps to see a counselor can be time consuming and “a huge barrier” for some unwilling to go through all of that. 

“Let’s Talk breaks away all of those things, it’s a quick connection,” Das said. “You just invest 20 minutes and at the end of 20 minutes you decide whether it’s for you or not. Most of the people don’t even need counseling; they just need that connection with the counselor to understand what’s going on with them.”

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Students can also meet with counselor Christine Szaraz who focuses on sexual violence, relationship violence prevention awareness and survivor support, and counselor Lara DiCarlo, a post-doctoral fellow working at both Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and CPO. 

In addition to “Let’s Talk,” another new program run by CPO is “R.E.A.C.H. Groups.” Five different R.E.A.C.H. groups are offered. 

The groups “Creative Coping” and “Our Stories, Our Time” use creative expression and story-telling respectively to foster conversations about self-care and shared experiences. “Living Through” provides a support space for students experiencing grief, loss and mourning. “N-O-T on Tobacco” aids students considering quitting tobacco usage, and what a tobacco-free life would look like. “Tea Time Chat,” peer led with Global Minds Alliance, is another R.E.A.C.H. group students can drop-in to have empowering conversations and a supportive environment. 

“It was really nice to be able to go and talk to people, they were all welcoming and accepting. As a transfer and non-traditional student I struggled with belonging and fitting in and they all were accepting and welcoming,” Peregrin Mahan, a junior philosophy major, said after attending Tea Time Chat. “It’s a safe space for students to speak about their experiences openly, authentically and vulnerably.” 

With each of these drop-in programs, CPO hopes students can find solace in professional counselors or their peers, creating a network throughout Stony Brook that allows mental health issues to be openly discussed and supported. 

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“We want to be really visible in our community so people who don’t know about these things can learn about them,” Szaraz, assistant director at CPO, said. “Our students are warm and approachable and the staff that you might see bring themselves out to engage so that we can all connect and be where our students are.” 

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