Down with the stigma: Active Minds fights back

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, reported the American Psychological Association.

Depression affects one in 10 adults every year, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Mental health challenges are “more common than people realize,” said junior Chassidy Crump. “It’s easy to feel like you’re ‘weird’ or totally alone, and I like that Active Minds tries to tell people that this just isn’t the case.”

Crump is co-president of Active Minds at Guilford College, a club that promotes discussion of issues like eating disorders, stress, anxiety and depression. The club serves as an on-campus chapter of the national Active Minds organization.

“Active Minds is about erasing stigma, specifically stigma about mental health disorders,” said Crump. “It’s about letting people know that they aren’t alone. It’s also a way to spread awareness that someone you know and love could be going through this without you knowing.”

“This club is important because it educates people,” said sophomore Eli Cloonan, club treasurer. “It educates people that they can be biased and insensitive without realizing it.”

Founded in 2010, this relatively young club is better known around campus for their “Pet Therapy” events, where local dog owners bring their pooches on campus to interact with the community. The activity is a great way for students to relieve stress and spend time outside.

Last year, the club hosted a Midterm Stress Relief Fair in collaboration with the Counseling Center, complete with bouncy castles, back massages, crafts and yoga.

Active Minds also launched an on-campus PostSecret campaign last year, where students inscribed secrets on decorated index cards that were on display in Boren Lounge at the end of last semester.

“This club is a still getting established on our campus, but already they have started to bring attention to mental health issues,” said Director of Counseling and faculty advisor Gaither Terrell. “In time, I hope they’ll be able to sponsor relevant speakers and host other events.”

The club has big hopes for the future, like hosting a safeTALK workshop, which is a seminar that trains individuals to recognize the signs of suicide in their peers and connect troubled friends with life-saving resources.

“Of course, Active Minds seeks to do so many other things, but suicide prevention is definitely an important part of the greater organization’s motivation, and it’s a relevant issue for a college community like Guilford,” said Crump.

Crump also looks forward to the new discussion format of the club’s meetings. Every other week, the group will hold an open dialogue about a designated mental health issue where members can educate themselves and share personal anecdotes.

Cloonan feels that such discussion is crucial in the understanding of people who suffer from mental illnesses and eliminating the stigma.

After all, “People don’t choose the chemical makeup of their brains,” Cloonan said.