The Active Minds chapter at Oregon State University is but one of many hailing from a national nonprofit organization that works to spread awareness about mental health. Active Minds works to educate others, start conversations, and provide opportunities for leadership and advocacy training. The entirely student-run chapters serve in bridging the gap between students and mental health resources in their community.
But first, a little history.
What would become Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon when she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, stemming from her older brother’s suicide that had followed years of a hidden struggle with mental illness. Through this tragedy, Malmon came to realize how few students actually talked about mental health issues and decided that she wanted to change the culture and make it easier for students to seek help.
This initial effort, named Open Minds, continued to grow, and in 2003, a national headquarters was established in Washington DC, alongside a fresh rename. Later that year, Active Minds became a 501(c)3 organization, and has since given a voice to mental health advocacy for young adults nationwide, with over 400 campus chapters.
Zeroing in locally, the OSU chapter is known on campus for spreading awareness about mental health through highly public displays and tabling events. This past May, they hosted their biannual “Send Silence Packing” event where facts and phrases were displayed about students alongside hundreds of lone backpacks including, “It’s ok to not be ok” and “2 out of 3 students who need help don’t seek it.”
In order to increase the reach of their message this past spring term, they held dual events “Art Saved My Life” and “Game Face is not the only Face,” which provided encouraging environments for artistic individuals and student athletes to talk about their mental health journeys, including how they shaped their college experience.
In line with these expansions on their efforts, they are working to better involve international students. According to the Office of International Services, 3,937 international students were enrolled at OSU as of Fall 2016 – a considerable portion of the student population. These students may not only struggle with adjusting to their new environment, but also in terms of practicing self-care without their old support systems.
I sat down and spoke with incoming president of the OSU chapter Caroline Moreno to learn more. Currently a junior, Moreno is a double major in psychology and political science. She just joined the group last year, but seems to be grabbing the reigns with purpose and dedication.
Carol wants to set the record straight, stating that “Active Minds is not a counseling or mental health assistance club, but is a club that works to spread awareness of mental health issues, remove the stigma behind them, and connect students with resources on campus and in the Corvallis community.”
However, this doesn’t mean the club can’t be helpful to those suffering from mental illness. At meetings, students vent about their days through sharing exercises, listen to speakers, plan events, and participate in self-care activities which can provide a sense of community and belonging to those who may need it.
Members are always open to new ideas and hearing about needs that the community may have. In the past, they have partnered with Linus Pauling Middle School’s Gay-Straight Alliance group and tabled at their pride event. At the event, they were able to reach out to younger individuals and encourage them to help their peers.
Active Minds acts a crucial go-between point to provide students and community members with the knowledge and resources that they need to tackle their own mental health issues along with the bigger issues that our current political climate has created.
To learn more about the Active Minds chapter at OSU take a look at their KBVR TV PSA at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
By Madeline Frisk