Students combat mental health stigma with new SIG

edited.ActiveMindsClub_Senior Tiffany Jackson-Activites Cordinater(L) Junior Kate Voynow-Vice President(M) Junior Kailani Clarke-Secretary(R)_RinaKomuraBy Katy Shenk

Student Life Editor

Five active-minded students — seniors Tiffany Jackson, Rachel Treglia, and Jack Wilson, and juniors Kailani Clarke and Kate Voynow — are working to raise awareness for Active Minds, a new Student Interest Group on campus that addresses a growing concern about young adult mental health.

According to their website, Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that supports mental health awareness and education for students, with a focus on suicide prevention for young adults ages 14-25. There are over 450 student-led chapters of Active Minds at high schools and colleges across the nation.

Clarke, the club secretary, described the club’s purpose as two-tiered, with the first tier being becoming an official chapter of the national organization.

“You can apply to become a member and become a chapter on campus, so we’re in the process of doing that. One of our officers, Rachel Treglia, is our liaison to the organization,” Clarke said.

Advantages of becoming a registered chapter include receiving assistance with coordinating events, hosting speakers, and greater access to the organization’s resources.

In addition to becoming a recognized chapter, Clarke said that the club hopes to raise awareness for mental health through themed months, art therapy sessions, and community meditation to break down the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Events last semester involving the death of a student on campus inspired the creation of Active Minds.

“It was very organic, actually. It was the night of the vigil, and we got a group together who were all very upset, obviously. We realized that we needed to have more on campus and more student-led [groups] in terms of mental health support,” Clarke said.

Having a student support network can help put students in touch with peers who may be experiencing similar mental health struggles.

“We have a lot of friends who we’ve spoken to about mental health and how it’s treated generally, and how there’s been more awareness of it recently,” said Voynow, club vice president.

Voynow also found that students expressed a desire to have more student support for mental health on campus.

“Health Services does a great job, but they’re only there during the week and not at night and on the weekends, which is when a lot of people are most at-risk,” Clarke said.

One long-term goal for the club is organizing a student-run emergency hotline, similar to the Resident Assistant phones, that would run during nights and weekends. This would serve as an alternate option to contacting Public Safety or 911 immediately.

“Sometimes you don’t want to talk to an adult or talk to a stranger, you’d rather talk to someone on your level,” Clarke said.

Members of the club or student volunteers on-call would all be trained in first-line suicide prevention. Though not licensed professionals, they would ideally be able to direct students to the appropriate resources.

“One of our long-term goals is to get more mental health training for students who would like to receive it,” Voynow said.

Now officially a SIG, the club hopes to facilitate this student community by holding weekly or bi-weekly meetings to provide a safe and confidential place for students to share their experiences.

“At our meetings, we would be doing low-stress activities, or things to raise awareness and a place where people can feel safe, talk, and try to de-stress,” Voynow said.

Since the club officers are all juniors and seniors, their goal is to recruit underclassmen who will be able to carry on the club leadership in the future.

The executive board will be sending out all-campus emails with the dates of their first meetings, and also hopes to man a table in Hodson Hall to raise awareness for the club.

Clarke thanked Dr. Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and the Student Government Association for their help in “getting the group off the ground.”

Active Minds first teamed up with Health and Counseling Services for National Suicide Prevention week events this past September.

“We’re collaborating with the administration and Health Services as much as we can. They’ve been very supportive and very on-board,” Clarke said.

Interested students should contact club President Jack Wilson at or any member of the executive board for more information.

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