One in four adults on college campuses nationwide are dealing with or have dealt with a mental illness at some point in their life, according to research done by the non-profit national organization, Active Minds.
Occupational therapy major Rachael Kuhn, health science major Nicole Bersey and nursing major Gillian Praetorius, all seniors, are working to spread mental health awareness with the new Active Minds chapter on campus.
“The first step is acknowledging the fact that mental illness is a problem on college campuses, including Quinnipiac,” Kuhn said. “This is a topic that needs to be talked about because people are suffering from mental illness without knowing that it is OK to say they need help.”
Active Minds met for their first on Jan. 27 with about 15 new members, when the group shared the mission statement and focused on “connecting with each other over past experiences,” according to Kuhn.
Kuhn began her research on mental health clubs when she was a freshman, looking for a way to address mental health on college campuses when she came across the Active Minds webpage.
Kuhn said Active Minds is more directed toward college campuses and college students, and she thought this was the best choice out of all of the nonprofit organizations she researched.
The organization was originally founded in 2000 by Alison Malmon during her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania soon after her brother, Brian Malmon, committed suicide, according to the Active Minds’ website.
There are now 425 chapters on college campuses in America, including Quinnipiac’s.
Kerry Patton, director of counseling services and Active Minds adviser, said she is “thrilled to be a part of Active Minds” as their adviser.
“I think that no one has to be an expert on mental illness, but to be able to learn and educate one another on mental health is important,” Patton said.
Bersey said that she believes Active Minds will positively affect the community since it will create a network of support for students dealing with mental illnesses.
“We want to promote mental health awareness around campus,” Bersey said. “We want to start talking about mental health positively and we don’t want people to be shy or embarrassed about these conversations.”
Patton believes the group will help educate the community on mental illness and will reduce the stigma on campus.
“Sometimes people just don’t feel comfortable to discuss the issue, or they may not understand what mental illness is,” Patton said. “It may not be the individual student but it may be one of their friends they are worried about.”
The group plans to hold a variety of events including an event for National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) month for this month, suicide prevention and stress management, according to Kuhn.
“We would love to hear from students too if there are other topics they would want to learn more about,” Patton said.
A goal of the group is to make students who are dealing with or have dealt with mental illness more comfortable with talking about their situations, according to Bersey.
“I think there is strength in numbers,” Bersey said. “If students see that there are people out there who are going through the same thing they have gone through or have a positive outlook on mental health, more people can come together and create conversation while not feeling nervous about it.”
Kuhn said there is a stigma of mental illness that needs to be addressed on college campuses, and that Active Minds is promoting a more positive outlook.
“A mental illness is something that we can’t see. There are so many people that automatically see mental illness as the extreme that is portrayed in movies and on television,” she said. “It gives all mental illnesses a bad reputation and people then become afraid to speak up and seek help.”