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Saturday, January 22, 2022

A new campus initiative is designed to give students a shoulder to lean on this fall.

The U Matter, We Care program, coordinated by Jen Day Shaw, dean of students, aims to help students recognize others in distress and give them support.

Day Shaw said similar programs have proven successful, and starting one at UF will help students build support systems.

The College of Journalism and Communications coined the program's slogan: "50,000 students and not one to spare."

For its size, Day Shaw said, UF is incredibly caring, but the program will go a step further so that no one is left out.

"Nationally and at UF, we're seeing a rise in students, faculty and staff who are dealing with mental health issues," she said.

Students' concerns can range from anxiety to financial strain to severe mental issues and disorders, she said. That stress can result in fatigue, depression, loss of focus and suicide for those who have no way to cope.

In the state of Florida, suicide ranked No. 3 in the top causes of death in 2009, according to National Vital Statistics Reports.

The program has staff trained to spot troubled students, Day Shaw said, but it also relies on students doing their part.

"If you see someone crying on the bus, asking them what's wrong and being that person who listens can really help," she said.

Students can feel isolated and may be dealing with deep-rooted issues even if they appear as if they have things in order, she said.

"At this point, it's not about what we can avoid," she said. "It's about who can use the help."

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Along with the staff, students can also visit a website, call a telephone line to speak with someone or find contact information for help.

More information about the U Matter, We Care initiative is available online at www.umatter.ufl.edu or by calling 352-294-2273.

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