March 2, 2024
SHU’s ‘Move to Heal’ Program Supports Mental Health

Campus-based workouts and meetings offer outlet for ‘anyone who is struggling with life.’ Sacred Heart University has partnered with “Move to Heal” (MTH) to bring free mental and physical health resources to the University.

Campus-based workouts and meetings offer outlet for ‘anyone who is struggling with life’

Sacred Heart University has partnered with “Move to Heal” (MTH) to bring free mental and physical health resources to the University.

Move to Heal combines a 30-minute workout with an hour-long support meeting for a holistic approach to mental health. The sessions, open to Sacred Heart students, faculty and staff, create an opportunity for participants to bond on a physical level while working out, and then on an emotional level during confidential, safe-space meetings. These sessions take place in the Bergoglio Cross Fit gym on Wednesdays at 4 p.m.

The program also offers free nutritional counseling with a registered dietician and one-on-one therapy for participants after they complete a minimum number of group sessions.

Even though MTH was created to help individuals with anxiety, depression, addiction and other life challenges, it can benefit any SHU community members, and all are welcome to join. The meetings are purposely not affiliated with any recovery or mental health program. “It is for anyone struggling with life,” said Colleen Delaney, MTH co-founder and wellness coach.

Ethan Hershman, co-founder and director, discussed the numerous program benefits as he led a recent support meeting. “As you come together and form a community, you will realize that you are never alone. You always have your MTH family behind you,” Hershman told the group.

Sacred Heart offers the first campus-based Move to Heal, but Delaney hopes to expand to other colleges and universities. “Bringing MTH to college campuses was a goal of mine from the beginning,” she said. She previously taught high school swimming and has an affinity for young adults and getting them on the path to mental and physical well-being.

Program provides comfort and motivation

The SHU community has embraced the new program. “Move to Heal gives me a new outlet to improve myself alongside other Sacred Heart students. It was amazing to hear others’ experiences of strength and hope,” said John, a graduate student. “It also lets me be a positive role model for those around me in the community.”

Alyssa, also a graduate student, found the MTH experience motivating, during both the workout and group sessions. “To be able to share stories and past experiences, and to know you are never truly alone, gives you a feeling of comfort and the motivation to keep pushing forward,” she said.

Laura, a SHU graduate assistant, plans to attend weekly. “Move to Heal has been a great addition to my schedule. After a workout, group therapy session and making new friends, I leave feeling better than before I went in.”

The program will help normalize conversations about mental health, according to James Geisler, executive director of wellness services at Sacred Heart. “It is unlike anything we have seen, and I am proud that we are pioneers in this initiative. Overall, MTH teaches us that we are all combating something in our lives, and through this shared experience, we are reminded of the importance of being together—in movement and in peace.”

Sacred Heart’s collegiate recovery program director, Brian Dolan, worked with MTH to develop the partnership. “There was so much work behind the scenes to get Move to Heal to SHU. I am so grateful to James Geisler, Ray Mencio, executive director of campus life, and others who had open minds about this new partnership. We are lucky to be the first university to partner with MTH, and I hope students and staff take advantage of the services.”

An energizing experience

This writer participated in a group session at SHU’s Move to Heal grand opening on January 31. The topic was, “What brought you here?” The question sounded easy at first, but the answer required some introspection. Participants’ reasons for being there varied from wanting to deal with physical illnesses or stress to using the session as part of a recovery program. Two students simply stopped by to see what was happening in the gym.

I was there in part to write about the program. Yet, I found that being able to share thoughts and feelings in a safe space, free from judgment, lifted my spirits. I came away feeling energized and excited to return.

I had some doubts, however, about the workout portion, telling Hershman and Delaney I was concerned that I was not at the same fitness level as the other participants. After all, the sessions take place in SHU’s Cross Fit gym. Hershman assured me I’d do fine. “Everyone goes at their own pace,” he said, adding that the objective is to create a safe and comfortable environment while getting one’s body moving. He assured me the group would meet me where I am fitness-wise and bring me along.

Sacred Heart University

March 2, 2024
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