As the fall semester comes to a conclusion, many students find themselves in a less-thancare- free mood. With the pressure of finals, holiday gift giving and part-time work over break, it is no wonder that so many people feel upset. If these feelings of anxiety, depression or general unrest continue, it can lead to far more serious problems. Luckily, we have a group on campus that is designed to help promote awareness about many mental diseases that could lead to stress, sadness, or anxiety. The name of this group is Active Minds. Active Minds is a studentrun organization designed to raise awareness about mental illness and advocate for mental health. They are the West Chester University chapter of Active Minds Inc., a non-profit organization based out of Washington D.C. This on-campus program originated from the already established LGBTA ALLY training program at West Chester University. This training consists of various measures which must be completed before one is considered a mental health advocate. The mission of Active Minds is to reach out to other students, raise awareness about prominent issues, stomp out the stigma that surrounds mental illness and support others in getting support.
Their vision statement is as follows: to de-stigmatize mental illness by promoting open enlightened discussion of mental health issues to create a better life for all who suffer. They also aim to capitalize on the energy of young adults to fight against the stigma that surrounds mental illness and to educate, enlighten and empower young adults to ensure their own mental health before it reaches a tragic stage.
The issue of mental illness among young adults has been growing at a rapid pace. Young adults age 18-24 have the highest prevalence of diagnosable forms of mental illness among the entire population (27%). Half of all adults with depression report onset before age 20. One effect of this depression can be suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among college students. Fortunetly, mental health treatment is successful in nearly 80% of cases. The key factor in getting treatment is learning to accept the disease and no longer feel ashamed. These are real medical issues and they should not be kept a secret. Active Minds on Campus believes that all young adults have the right to understand their own mind.
In the past the group has hosted such events as “The Blue Ribbon Campaign” and “Beating the Blues Day.” Active Minds has sponsored a cast of speakers such as Derrick Atkins, who was a gold winning Olympic track star, Joseph Rogers who is the President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Wurtzel, a music critic and best-selling author. Each of these people has found great success even though they have suffered with mental disorders. The members of Active Minds have also presented at the Baccalaureate Program Directors national conference for social workers for four years in a row.
This year Active Minds hopes to continue their efforts of raising awareness by sponsoring more campaigns, having more speakers, participating in round table series, and providing Mindful Training, an advocacy program. They are also selling T-shirts to raise money for their organization. They will strive for more peer involvement and support for students who feel isolated.
Membership is open to any student, faculty, staff or alumni of West Chester University and its community. As Co-Presidents Marcus McDuffie and Douglas Bernard say, “We understand the value of taking care of our own mental health, watching for the mental health of others and seeking help as soon as it is needed. We support getting support.”
Active Minds holds its meetings on Mondays at 12:00 noon in Sykes Student Union room 254.The main web address is www.activemindsoncampus. org, and the WCU chapter page should be available shortly. For more information, contact Marcus McDuffie MM569499@ wcupa.edu or Douglas Bernard DB571407@wcupa.edu.