Mental health on our minds

CIO Active Minds educates the University community about mental health issues


Active Minds hosts events including movie screening, professor panels, and study breaks to increase awareness of mental health issues on Grounds and foster an open conversation among the University community.

For Active Minds Secretary Tara Roy, a second-year College student, mental health is more than a national issue. Several of Roy’s closest relationships have been affected by mental health issues, prompting her to get involved with the Active Minds CIO and work to spread awareness among students on Grounds who often pay little attention to mental health issues.

“For me, [mental health is] very personal,” Roy said. “The awareness around mental health and wellness [at the University] is not very high.”

The issue also hits close to home for Active Minds Vice President Sophie Kaemmerle, a third-year College student.

“I’ve had many personal connections to those who have had struggles with mental health,” Kaemmerle said. “I think everyone goes through something in their life that requires a little bit of help and support.”

Through Active Minds, these two women aim to inform students on Grounds about mental health problems while also increasing awareness on a national level.

“[Students] either might not be aware that something is not normal or they may be afraid to speak up,” Roy said. “It’s a huge problem at the University. There are far higher rates of depression and anxiety than we know.”

The CIO plans events ranging from movie screenings to professor panels to study breaks — all with the purpose of increasing awareness and educating the community.

“With the panel of professors we most recently had, we were very happy with the turnout and positive responses,” Roy said. “[The professors] enjoy talking about mental health and wellness — it’s a big problem that the Office of [the] Dean of Students has to deal with.”

One of the CIO’s biggest events is a “Day Without Stigma,” held annually, which works to promote open discussion of mental health issues.

“It’s OK to talk about [mental health issues],” Kaemmerle said. “It’s not something to be ashamed of or hidden away.”

Active Minds also hosts small-scale events, from handing out balloons with smiley faces to SweetHaus cupcakes to help brighten people’s days.

“I want to continue making sure that people are aware of these issues and are also aware of what wellness means,” Roy said. “Or just simply, ‘being happy.’”

In a new effort to reach out to students on Grounds, Active Minds plans to co-sponsor an upcoming Yoga on the Lawn event.

“Yoga on the Lawn is about stress relief, letting go and breathing,” Kaemmerle said. “It focuses less on mental issues and more on mental health.”

Members of Active Minds stress the difference between wellness — which is promoted by activities like yoga — and mental health, which represents a psychological issue.

“Wellness is about being mindful of yourself,” Roy said. “Things like meditation, yoga — it’s basically about just doing something that keeps you happy and that’s positive.”

Kaemmerle said she hopes to see the University open up to increased discussion about mental health issues and disorders.

“I think you’re supposed to draw a lesson or some conclusion from [mental health issues],” Kaemmerle said. “There’s no shame in it. We’re here to let people get help. You want to be a functional human being. You want to be happy. While the stigma is there, it shouldn’t be.”

Published April 23, 2014 in Life

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