Smita Majumdar Das
Focus on Mental Health
Smita Majumdar Das: Center for Prevention and Outreach
Smita Majumdar Das, director of the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), has spent the past 15 years developing and overseeing culturally sensitive programs that help protect our campus from sexual violence and drug misuse and promote emotional health and physical well-being, all with a focus on prevention and early intervention. Under her leadership, CPO has secured more than $2 million in federal, state and local funding for programs including suicide prevention for Asian students, coordinated community response to violence against women, and steps to counter underage drinking.
“We have the resources, knowledge and support of visionary leaders, right here at Stony Brook University, to make a real difference in the field of mental health,” said Majumdar Das. “My goal is to do enough so that whoever comes after me can move forward with what my team and I have accomplished.”
These accomplishments include a centralized and ever-expanding Peer Education Program (PEP).
“In 2019, we brought all the existing PEP programs related to mental health under CPO’s purview, giving us a model that’s unified and sustainable and has a solid structure, clear goals and good metrics to measure success,” said Majumdar Das. “We are constantly looking to increase that network of ‘campus gatekeepers’ as we work to promote a culture of kindness, responsibility, compassion and respect.”
Every year, PEP trains more than 100 peer educators who then share what they’ve learned on topics such as substance abuse and recovery, mental health awareness, and suicide and interpersonal violence prevention with fellow students.
Elena Buser ’23 is a student health assistant at CPO. “I feel inspired when I can genuinely help my peers by teaching something they didn’t know before or connecting them to resources that can empower them to have a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “And it’s a chain reaction. Because once they learn something from us, they can teach their friends, and so on. It really is a great way to have a direct impact on the Stony Brook community.”
Majumdar Das also established “Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper” suicide prevention training for students to help other students in need. To help faculty and staff respond to students in need, she also created the Red Book — a single website where they can quickly and conveniently find links to the broad spectrum of university resources to assist students in distress.
“These types of programs are perfect examples of the culture we’re constantly looking to build,” said Majumdar Das, “where peer-to-peer interactions can help prevent dangerous situations and even save lives — where students are really looking out for each other.”
Reaching beyond campus, Majumdar Das and her team are sharing the design and benefits of CPO programs with institutions across the state and country. The U.S. Department of Justice named her a leader in sexual violence prevention work. And in 2014, the DOJ chose SBU as one of the locations for its national campus tour on sexual violence and prevention outreach, based on the success of university programs such as “Green Dot” bystander intervention training. This powerful program teaches faculty and staff how to recognize, prevent and/or address “power-based personal violence,” such as sexual assault and stalking. These instructors then train students to help each other.
Majumdar Das’ influence extends to her own team as well. CPO Assistant Director Christine Szaraz shared her group’s sentiments when she said, “Smita encourages every person on our team to create, grow and achieve, as individuals and professionals, every day. I have increased my own competence and confidence as a result of our relationship.”
A huge believer in teamwork, Majumdar Das said, “A dream dies alone. A strong team, like the one I’m so fortunate to have, shares your dream. We’re fueled by each other’s enthusiasm and we’re reaching for the stars. Together.”
Ellen Cooke is the associate director of internal communications, Office of Marketing and Communications.