In Oct. 2020, friends and family of Sean Locke, a former university student who took his own life in 2018 after a battle with depression, established a free therapy house in his name. The house, called Sean’s House, is located at 136 W. Main Street, and provides unlimited support to the local community — whether through mental health awareness, suicide prevention education, referrals or peer counseling.
Though it has only been around for a year and a half, the impact of Sean’s House has reached far into the university student body and the Delaware community.
“[Locke] graduated in 2016 from Lerner, was an Academic All-American, had all these things going for him, had a great job, and for everything he had from the outside, what he was battling was depression and hid it from everybody and never talked about it,” Sean’s House Executive Director Scott Day said.
Day’s own mental health journey motivated him to seek the position of executive director at Sean’s house in 2021.
“I went through a deep battle with depression myself about five or six years ago and I’ve spoken publicly to people about it and I’ve seen it resonate with people, and I didn’t understand the power of that,” Day said.
In his memory, Locke’s friends and family founded the SL24: Unlocke the Light Foundation (SL24).
Day explained the foundation’s three main initiatives: the first, to “educate,” is something SL24 tries to implement at Sean’s House or by visiting other groups.
He said that SL24 speaks to four or five schools per month.
Locke’s friends and family hoped that by telling Locke’s story, they could start honest conversations about mental health.
SL24’s second pillar is to “assist,” which they have done by helping people find where to go for professional help.
“We’ve built kind of a ‘Sean’s team,’ which is a network of woven professionals which we try to work with pretty closely to get people who come in here or reach out and just get them to the next step,” Day said.
SL24 later renovated Locke’s home from his college years and turned it into Sean’s House, which they use as a space to enact their third pillar of supporting the local youth.
Sean’s House has over 156 peer-support staff members, who range from the ages of 15 to 24 and are certified in peer-to-peer counseling. Many of them attend the university, according to Day. Sean’s House also collaborates with a local therapist, holding therapy appointments on the upper level of the house.
Peer-support lead and junior psychology major Molly Sodicoff shared her experiences working at Sean’s House.
“Since I’ve gotten involved a year ago, I feel like I’ve become more open to talk about my own mental health,” Sodicoff said.
Sodicoff attested to the unique support system that Sean’s House provides, and said that she noticed that people often feel more comfortable talking to peers than they do to professionals.
“It can be nice to see other students who have gone through something similar — people who have been in a similar situation in life and can relate,” Sodicoff said.
Sodicoff hopes that other students at the university will take advantage of the resources available through Sean’s House, regardless of their mental health status.
“There’s a lot of different ways to use the house,” Sodicoff said. “If you’re looking to get support or if you just want a different change of space, it’s a place for anyone to come.”
SL24 aims to make sure that mental health services are accessible to anyone at any time, which is why Sean’s House is open 24/7 for emergency services and never asks for money.
“Nothing ever costs a dime here,” Day said. “So, from when you walk in the door, you won’t pay a single dime. Whether it’s a cup of coffee and a snack, or sitting down for a resource, or getting you hooked up with a counselor or whatever else.”
Sean’s House has recently started focusing on financial mental health support by implementing a mental health scholarship.
“This year, we opened up a scholarship program to $25,000 a year that we’ll spend on people who need financial help,” Day explained. “So, anybody who reaches out who maybe doesn’t want Mom and Dad to know or aren’t in the position to pay for anything or anything else, the foundation will cover the costs of any therapist, psychologist, anything.”
According to Day, Sean’s House intends on catering to a diverse audience and is constantly creating new programs to cater to popular demand. Some of these programs include a survivors of suicide loss group, a healing after parent’s suicide group, weekly mindfulness sessions, unburden group, weekly yoga, dating and domestic violence talks, athlete dinners and international student dinners.
“The saying we use in our staff meetings is: ‘We’re building a plane while we’re flying it,’” Day said. “We adjust to what is needed and see that the need is there.”
Day and the foundation’s staff are determined to make Sean’s House a reliable safe haven for the youth population of Delaware.
“The light’s always on,” Day said.