Active Minds sheds light on mental illness on campus

Josh Falcone – General Assignment Reporter

     The Southern Connecticut State University chapter of Active Minds has the goal of helping change the way mental illness is perceived on and around the university’s campus. Active Minds is a national organization that brings awareness to and advocacy for mental health issues on campuses. The members of Active Minds pursue the goal of decreasing the negative attitudes many have towards those with mental illness by providing events and programs educating their fellow students on mental illness.

     In a recent meeting of Active Minds, the group was creating items to hand out at an upcoming event. “We are making stress relief jars, and we are going to be handing them out at our tabling event, which is April 14.” Secretary Alyssa Korzon said. Treasurer Danielle Judkins said the Southern chapter of Active Minds attempts to build a better understanding of mental illness. “So basically we try to raise awareness on campus to end the stigmas against mental illnesses,” Judkins said. “We have awareness events, so for example the stress relief jars are for Stress Less Week, which is a week where we promote stressing less, and this is going to be kind of like snow globes but are being called glitter jars.”

     Judkins said the group has a large event coming up in the next week. “We have a big event coming up, it is called the Chair Event, where we are going to have 1,100 chairs in the academic quad, and it will be for the statistic that 1,100 students do not make it to graduation,” she said. “So that is going to be one of our biggest awareness events. We are going to have tabling and we are going to have posters of positive affirmations and different statistics on it.”

     Vice President Melissa Volpe said the group has been working on the chair event for quite a while. “That is something that we have been working on for about a year now, so it is a really big campaign for us, and something we really tried to put on this college campus especially because suicide and suicide prevention is not something that is widely talked about on college campuses although it should be,” Volpe said. “So for us, Active Minds, we really try and push the subjects that are like things that people don’t really want to talk about and they just want to avoid.”

     Judkins said the group attempts to alter the discussion on mental illness through their events.

“We try to change the conversation basically, as well as we do other things, we do Free Hug Day, where we stand on the bridge and outside and give people free hugs and that is April 16,” she said. “It makes people feel better and it makes them have a great day. We do Mirror Messages, where we put messages on the mirrors in the academic buildings.”

     Korzon said the group is looking for volunteers to help out with the chair event and people who are interested should come to the next Active Minds meeting. “We meet every Monday at 1pm in room 303 in the Student Center,” Korzon said. Volpe echoed Korzon’s call for volunteers.

“At 10am, we are getting a shipment of 1,100 chairs and we need that many set up,” Volpe said.

Active Minds is not only for people who have mental illness, Volpe said. “We are open to all people, not only people who have a mental illness,” she said, “that is a big thing that people think, that we only want people who are dealing with things, but we really take anyone, and we are just opening up the conversation about mental health.”

     Volpe, Judkins, and Korzon along with the club’s president Kayla Mitchell get assistance from the Counseling Services department at Southern.“We also do a lot of things with the counseling services department,” Judkins said.“They support a lot of our events,” Korzon added. Volpe said the recurring idea for this year in Active Minds is “I’m Not Crazy.” “Basically our theme that we have been going by this year is that ‘I’m Not Crazy’ like jumping out of an airplane is crazy or petting a lion, that is crazy, but you are not crazy,” she said. Korzon added, “If you struggle with mental illness, you are not crazy.”

     Active Minds member Joseph Kish reiterated the groups goal of purging the negative beliefs that many have when it comes to mental illness, adding that’s what the group means to him.

“To me it means, just what I said, helping with the stigma, raising awareness, and helping people feel comfortable about their own mental illness,” he said. “The main goal is to try and teach people how to be more empathetic and accepting.”

     Kish said physical fitness seems to constantly be stressed but that mental health should be equally as important.“There is so much emphasis on everyone being physically healthy and physically fit,” Kish said, “but I feel like there is not enough about mental health and people being mentally fit as well.”

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