UM’s Greek Life Philanthropy ignites hope for mental health support

Participants at the ZBT/SDT petting zoo petting rabbits and ducks on Sept. 10, 2023. Photo credit: Will Fleck

Fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) and sorority Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) are dedicated to fostering positive change by offering campus-wide support for the mental health of students.

On Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, both the fraternity and sorority joined forces to organize an inclusive, free event for all students at the university.

ZBT hosted a petting zoo featuring an array of animals, from ducks and pigs to bunnies and goats, transforming the fraternity house’s backyard into a welcoming space.

The brothers welcomed over 50 people into their backyard, giving students the space to connect, bond and support each other while interacting with the animals.

“Part of being in ZBT is caring about our brothers. The goal of this event was to destigmatize mental health, and to raise awareness of the impacts of suicide prevention, not only for the members of our frat, but for the university as a whole,” said ZBT risk direction and wellness director Blake Goldberg.

In the past two years, both organizations have worked to spread their initiative of raising awareness about suicide, which was driven by the passing of a sister’s boyfriend within SDT.

The tragic loss to mental health issues has served as a reminder of the importance of destigmatizing mental health and well-being for students.

“Mental health needs to be talked about more openly on campus,” said philanthropy chair Michelle Jacobo. “It is a huge struggle for college students.”

This tragedy has since led the sorority to change their philanthropy to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to save lives and foster hope in those affected by mental health crises.

SDT will support AFSP efforts through events like the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk ” taking place Oct. 1 at Tropical Park in Miami.

Starting at sunset, participants will walk in the darkness, a symbolic gesture of respect and solidarity for individuals affected by mental health problems. The end of the route will be illuminated with luminaria, each representing a life taken by suicide.

The community walk is aimed to empower individuals to share their own personal experiences, providing a platform with a more informed and empathetic culture surrounding mental health.

SDT’s commitment to raising awareness and funds for the cause will be furthered during their upcoming philanthropy week, scheduled from Nov. 13 to 19.

Working to reach a goal of $20,000 in donations, SDT has organized a series of fundraising events, such as a bake sale on Nov. 14, and “Pie-A-Bear” on Nov. 15, where participants can pay to pie a member in the face.

Along with ZBT and SDT, other fraternities will be participating in this initiative, with a basketball tournament scheduled on Nov. 15 to foster support for mental health.

With a spirit of compassion and unity, the efforts of Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Delta Tau are paving the way for a brighter, more empathetic future at the University of Miami, ensuring the conversation of mental health on campus remains open and hopeful.