New student organization brings awareness to mental health

by Associate Life Editor Monday Sanderson

Students will have the opportunity to learn more about mental illness and how they can make a difference on campus this semester.

UNA welcomes the new registered student organization, Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that strives to educate and raise awareness about mental health and disorders on college campuses, said sophomore and UNA’s Active Minds Student President Chloe Allen.

“We plan to host events centered on providing information for students and giving them a platform to ask questions and learn,” she said.

Allen said she was diagnosed with depression when she was very young and started going to Student Counseling Services her first semester at UNA.

“Whenever I tell people at school that I go to counseling, I receive one of three responses,” she said. “The person feels uncomfortable and changes the subject, the person gets excited and says, ‘me too,’ or the person begins to ask questions because they know they need help, too.”

Allen said Director of Student Counseling Services Lynne Martin encouraged her to check out the Active Minds website.

“I just thought it was the greatest thing,” Allen said. “I don’t want people to feel embarrassed to seek help. I don’t want my classmates to feel like they have to wait for me to bring it up in order to discuss it. I believe having Active Minds on our campus will help open those doors and start those conversations.”

Martin said their first activity will be for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week beginning February 22 and will include activities for Feel Good Naked Week.

“(These activities) will bring about awareness and provide information concerning disordered eating, self-esteem and body image issues,” she said.

Martin said the group also plans to do different activities for domestic violence and alcohol abuse.

Junior Casey Wright said this organization will be a great addition to the campus.

“Their goal is ultimately to raise awareness about mental illness and erase the stigmas attached to it,” she said. “This is great because mental illness is still something that is seen as taboo.”

Freshman Dalton Shorette said he has not heard of Active Minds but thinks it will be helpful to all students.

“(It will help) not only those who suffer from mental illness, but students who would like to learn more,” he said.

Martin said students should attend meetings to find out how the national organization works and how other college chapters raise awareness about mental health on their campuses.

“Students can offer ideas that will reach their peers,” she said. “Counselors from Student Counseling Services will serve as advisers for the RSO.”

Allen said it is easy for students to join and get involved.

“Our meeting times will be posted, there is no participation fee and all they have to do is come ready and willing to work,” she said.

Martin said students will be working on planning activities and coming up with new ideas to raise awareness.

The group has not decided on a designated meeting place and time as of yet, she said.

Wright said this group will be a great resource for everyone on campus.

“They will not only be able to raise awareness about mental illness, but they will also be able to give students the tools and resources they need to combat it,” she said. “I’m interested in joining because I struggle with a mental illness, and if I joined it, I would be able to better deal with (it).”

Freshman Lauren Bobo said UNA has needed an organization like this for a long time.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about several mental illnesses as well as a lot of stigmas surrounding them,” she said. “It’s great that they’re wanting to spread awareness and educate people.”

Students can make a difference in Active Minds, Allen said.

“Students should get involved with our organization because we stand for something much larger than ourselves,” she said. “We are educating and advocating not only for the students of UNA but for people struggling with mental illness everywhere.”

Bobo said she is interested in joining to gain more knowledge about mental illness.

“I would be interested in joining because I have some experience with mental illness,” she said. “However, that by no means makes me an expert on it, so I am interested in helping educate others and myself more about it.”

The hope is that people will now know they are not alone, Allen said.

“No one should ever have to struggle in silence,” she said. “We want to make sure our classmates know they have nothing to be ashamed of. Now that we have Active Minds in place, they never have to fight alone again.”