Associate Features Editor
Want to participate in a club looking to make a change in the Millersville University community? Active Minds is an organization hoping to cement their status as an advocacy group that also has fun.
Active Minds is a nationwide organization with 425 chapters on college campuses. The Millersville chapter of Active Minds is currently at temporary status for an organization. Members who do join are passionate about the club’s purpose. “If you are here for a good reason, you can make a difference,” says Kacie Stalb, co-president of the Millersville chapter.
“Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon when she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, following the suicide of her older brother, Brian,” states the Active Minds website. Her brother had suffered with depression and schizoaffective disorder. She wanted to defeat the negative stigma of mental illness in the University of Pennsylvania by spreading the program to other universities.
They pride themselves in being a suicide prevention and mental health advocacy group. “Active Minds’ goal is to help students become emotionally healthy before they reach the point of crisis,” states the Active Minds website.
Active Minds cites the National Institute of Mental Health to spread mental health awareness. College students are particularly at risk for mental health disorders because of the stressful environment, sudden change and their age. The National Institute of Mental Health explains that the average age of onset of mental disorders is 18 to 24. Mental health issues are more common than many believe. It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that 22.1% of all Americans 18 and above deal with a diagnosable mental disorder a year.
Two main mental health disorders that are common among college students are depression and anxiety. According to a study by American College Health Association, almost half of all college students testified to being so depressed in the past year that they could not function. Symptoms include feeling sad for a prolonged time without getting better, hopelessness, irritability, changes in sleeping patterns, loss of interest, fatigue, guilt, changes in appetite, and suicidal thoughts.
The feeling of anxiety commonly appears when embarking on a stressful situation such as public speaking or a first date. When anxiety becomes overwhelming and persistent, it starts to negatively affect a person’s life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if excessive worrying is prolonged over six months, help is needed. The varying symptoms are unrealistic fear, trouble sleeping, shaky hands, repetitive behaviors, muscle tension, irritability and a racing heart. “Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults every year,” states the National Institute of Mental Health.
Seeking help is essential in combatting suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In general, suicide is the third leading killer among those who are between 18 and 24-years-old. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, for every female suicide there are four male suicides. Many do not consider seeking help. Active Minds says two thirds of students who should be receiving help never get it.
These students may dismiss these serious warning signs or others may belittle their symptoms. Mental illness stigma may sway many dealing with these problems to not seek help. “Stigma refers to a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illness,” explains the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.
Those dealing with mental illness discrimination feel alienated. Stalb works in the psychology field and knows that people are made fun of for their illness. She says it is “heartbreaking.”
Along with being informative, meetings are also laidback and enjoyable. Group members taught each other how to crochet while cookies were passed out. Lewis wants to reinforce that the organization is a “safe environment.” She also wants to emphasize that Active Minds is not a sad club; it is one that spreads hope.
Lewis hopes to work with other organizations on campus, so Active Minds can grow into a community. Stalb wishes to have workshops and professionals to come in and talk about mental health. Active Minds meets in room 107 in Byerly hall on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. Come out to support a bake sale they will be having this week in the SMC!