By Rei Ramos ‘15
Stigma and taboo. These are just two things that keep individuals suffering from mental illness from getting help. “Active Minds” helps promotes mental health awareness, education, and advocacy on college campuses.
The U of R’s chapter of Active Minds hosts a variety of different events ranging from guest speakers to a variety of awareness drives throughout the year in order to encourage a dialogue about mental health between members of the campus community. Chapter members help to facilitate these conversations as self-proclaimed “stigma fighters,” combating misconceptions and advocating for greater awareness of common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Stephanie Mejia ’15, a psychology major minoring in International Relations, and one of the club’s co-presidents, said one of her favorite events is an annual art exposition, named “HeART of Disorder.” “We don’t just advocate for stomping out stigma; we show the community what stigma looks and feels like through various art forms,” she said.
“Prevent a Meltdown” was another program held last year that focused particularly on the student population. Hosting an ice cream social right before finals week, one of the most stressful weeks of the semester, the student organization partnered with University Health Services in order to pair sweet treats with information about stress-reducing mechanisms.
The “Tell It to the Wall” campaign, which began at the end of October, offers the campus population an anonymous outlet to share their secrets and issues to the public. The wall, displayed on the third floor of Wilson Commons, is composed of anonymously submitted posts, a la Post Secret. That same week, Active Minds partnered again with UHS at the Sex and Chocolate Health Fair in order to discuss mental and sexual health.
Co-president Hayley Harnicher ’15, a psychology major with minors in mathematics and business, is thankful for the opportunities that Active Minds has provided her, from serving on the national Student Advisory Committee to the organization’s national office in Washington D.C. Beyond this, however, she is most grateful for the clarity that the group’s mission provides. “The best thing I have learned is that taking care of your mental health, or seeking help if needed, is not a weakness and should be commended,” she said.
The Rochester community is no stranger to the costs of overlooking mental health. Last year, Samuel Freeling, an undergraduate student from Georgetown D.C., ended his own life. Sam’s mother created Project S.A.M., which hosts an annual 5K Fun Run, the Spike Classic, to provide support and advocacy for those suffering from mental illnesses like depression.
Last year, the money raised by the Spike Classic was used to fund a new track at Sam’s high school, Georgetown Day High School. This year, funds raised by the run and through their website will go to Active Minds. The group plans to use the donation to bring the “Send Silence Packing” display to campus.
“It is important for our student group to support a cause that has directly impacted our peers and the U of R community,” said Mejia. “It is up to us to continue the conversation and make the student body, faculty, staff, and administration aware of the cause and how we can make a difference in the future of our campus.”
If you, or someone you know, is struggling, the CARE Network exists to identify students who may be in distress. Simply fill out a CARE report or set up an appointment with University Counseling Services. Students can call 585-275-3113 to make an appointment.
Photo credit: Helga Weber/Flickr