Students Break Down Taboos Surrounding Mental Illness
A student organization at Alma College is working to change the conversation about mental health in Alma.
Active Minds holds events each month in order to educate people about mental health issues and break down the taboo surrounding them. This outreach is an important part of the organization’s cause, says Jennifer Showers, advisor and licensed counselor at the Counseling and Wellness Center.
“When people hear words like bipolar, suicide, depression, they are scared away,” she says. “But suicides have increased in the local community in recent years. People think that if you talk about it, it’s going to give people suicidal ideations, but that’s not true. Suicide is real. It’s now. We cannot ignore it.”
Active Minds sponsors campus events that raise awareness about mental health issues, including an annual field of flags.
In order to connect with the youth in the community, Active Minds recently brought Dennis Liegghio to local schools to speak about his personal path to recovery after battling depression and suicide. The founder of KnowResolve, a youth suicide prevention organization, spoke at the college in 2011.
“Dennis has a message of hope and lets others know they’re not alone,” says Showers. “We already plan to bring him back next year and continue rotating which schools he visits.”
In addition, Active Minds hosts “Anxiety Oasis” during finals week and “Recess” during Orientation Week. The organization also is responsible for bringing a mental health advocacy performance and other projects to Alma, says Kayla Roy, chapter president and Shelby Township junior.
“One long-term project that we recently started is our ‘Take What You Need,’ ‘Take a Smile’ and ‘Take a Chance’ posters,” she says. “Jennifer’s daughter even began bringing the posters into her elementary school.”
Alma is one of the smallest colleges to have a chapter of Active Minds on its campus, but it also has one of the largest chapters, says Showers. While Roy is a psychology major, the organization welcomes students from all different backgrounds and majors. Each student shares a similar passion for mental health advocacy.
“Personally struggling with mental illness, as well as having countless friends and family members who are affected, I have seen the stigma that society has put on mental illness,” says Roy. “It has made me want to work even harder to make talking about mental illness more acceptable.”
Posted: Thu, October 25th, 2012 at 1:04PM