Active Minds, a national organization that seeks to promote mental health awareness, is in the process of becoming a University campus chapter. The initiative began as part of Promoting Wellness and Resiliency, a campus-specific mental health awareness and suicide prevention endeavor that started just over a year ago as the result of a federal grant for $300,000.
The Active Minds organization currently has over 400 chapters nationwide and has spread to Canada. The University is the most recent affiliate-in-progress, followed by the University of Massachusetts. Ten other universities in New Jersey also have Active Minds chapters. Among them are Georgian Court, Montclair State, and Ramapo.
Active Minds President Jessica Ketch chose to get involved with Active Minds because she believes this group will help break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. This psychology and sociology double major recognizes mental health as a prevalent issue on college campuses, often due to the transition from high school to college.
According to records kept by the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services, approximately 70 percent of students at Monmouth struggle with anxiety, while 46 percent struggle with depression.
The University’s Active Minds chapter, in partnership with Promoting Wellness and Resiliency, aims to alleviate mental health issues like depression and anxiety by creating a competent community.
According to Dr. Michelle Scott, co-director for research of Promoting Wellness and Resiliency, a competent community is “where everyone is able to take care of each other. Everyone is aware of someone in need, can make an initial response, and knows how to make a referral. Part of the competent community idea is that everyone knows how and where to get someone the help they need, which is in line with the Hawks Fly Together motto.”
“Active Minds is an important feature to the University because instead of the University staff themselves trying to reach out to students, the Active Minds group will enable a better outreach to the student population when it comes to mental health awareness,” said Active Minds Vice President Jason Caianiello.
Nicole McQueen, a graduate student employee for Promoting Wellness and Resiliency, has been part of the process to bring Active Minds to campus since the beginning. “Through education and the ability to openly talking about mental health, we hope students will have a better understanding to then accept and help those who need support, but we also hope students who are experiencing their own mental health difficulties will feel safe in our community to come forward and ask for help.
Active Minds is an important feature to Monmouth University because student mental health should be a priority for each member of the campus community,” she said.
Ketch and Caianiello agree their primary goal after the club receives official recognition by the Student Government Association (SGA) is to collaborate with other clubs on events to spread awareness and increase positive relationships between student organizations.
Ketch said, “We want to plan events that cover topics such as suicide awareness, eating disorders, and military veteran issues.” Ketch encourages students of all majors and backgrounds to participate in the club in any way they can.
One of the events the group intends to hold in the spring semester is “Send Silence Packing,” in which 1,100 backpacks or pinwheels will be gathered to represent the number of college students that die by suicide every year. If the group decides to use pinwheels, they hope to have students write a reason for living on each of the pinwheels, which will then be placed in high traffic areas on campus.
Tau Delta Phi, a fraternity in the process of becoming officially recognized by the University, has adopted Active Minds as their national philanthropy. Dr. Pietro Sasso, Assistant Professor in the School of Education, will be the fraternity’s advisor. Sasso said, “The partnership with Active Minds is an example of Tau Delta Phi’s spirit of fraternalism, which embraces all students without accepting societal stigmas as a valid reason for differentiation.”
Tim Lowe, a general member of Active Minds and first year Masters student in the Mental Health Counseling program, was ecstatic to hear about the interest group and has played an active role in the group’s affiliation process. He said, “I originally emailed Dr. Franca Mancini in Counseling and Psychological Services to see if there were any work opportunities in her department, and she pointed me to McQueen who then told me about Active Minds and the Student Mental Health Advisory Board.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Courtney Barker