Surrounding others with support

Stuyvie Coleman ’21 seeks to bring hope and healing to students struggling with addiction and mental health. His personal quest is changing hearts and opening wallets – while saving lives.

Stuyvie Coleman

By outward appearances, Stuyvie Coleman seemed to be living a normal, cheerful life as a first-year student. He played lacrosse, cultivated friendships through Greek life and kept up his grades. But mental health and substance abuse issues followed him from high school. Like many college students his age, he needed professional help.

As a struggling student determined to conquer addiction and depression, he joined an on-campus recovery or “process” group and became a regular. With the help of the group, his off-campus therapist and outpatient treatment, Coleman returned to campus for his sophomore year sober and mentally recovering. Four years later, four of the five people who first attended the group with Coleman are sober.

But not everyone is so fortunate. Coleman wants to make it easier for more students to get the support they need.

“I feel incredibly lucky I had some really great people surrounding me to support me,” he said. “But something hit me where I realized these resources I had access to helped me stay sober while still having this incredible SMU experience, and I wanted to see others have that same support and experience, too.”

Coleman set out on a mission to bring wellness resources to as many SMU students as possible. He began speaking to people who had started recovery communities around the country to learn how to build his network at SMU. He talked about wellness with as many students, alumni, faculty and administrators as would listen.

Eventually he connected with Brandon Starr, SMU director of development for university programs. The two came up with the idea to start an endowment to support better wellness resources for students. In less than a year, soliciting only from Coleman’s personal network, the endowment raised $200,000 from more than 50 individual donors.

Investment proceeds from the fund will first be used to make it easier for students to receive ongoing counseling. Currently, SMU offers up to eight counseling sessions free to students, regardless of insurance. It’s a good start, but any additional help comes from outside professionals, for a fee. For some students, that help can be cost-prohibitive. That’s where the new resources can make a difference.

As awareness and support for those struggling with mental health and addiction has grown at SMU – thanks in part to Coleman’s efforts – so has the process group. Attendance exploded to more than 50 men, and a separate women’s group was started.

For his efforts, Coleman received the John L. Freehafer Memorial Award in 2020, given to students who make a profound impact on people, student life or student activities. He graduated in 2021 with a degree in markets and culture and took a job with J.P. Morgan in their private bank.

Dean Rider and Stuyvie Coleman

As an alumnus, he continues to push for student wellness at SMU, working with staff and fellow donors to make his dream a reality. Coleman hopes with increased support and even more funds, SMU could hire additional counselors and expand its mental health offerings and support. Ultimately, his goals include destigmatizing wellness and making it an everyday consideration. Ideally, addressing mental health would be as ordinary as going to the dentist.

Mindy Sutton, SMU associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, describes Stuyvie Coleman as “a force of nature. He is very ambitious. I have appreciated his support and enthusiasm. He keeps us moving.”