If there’s one club that wants to make some positive change on campus, it’s Active Minds. The University of Connecticut chapter of the national organization challenges the stigma surrounding mental health and educates college students about mental health resources available to them.
“Our mission is to destigmatize mental health,” Isabella Petrini, Active Minds vice president and seventh-semester business management major, said. “We want to make it so that it is a conversation that people can have on college campuses and something that people don’t need to stray away from. We wanted it to normalize that mental health is ok … and that there are resources.”
Active Minds is a national organization with chapters at colleges throughout the country. The founder of Active Minds, Alison Malmon, created the first chapter of the advocacy group in 2003, three years after her brother Brian died by suicide. UConn’s chapter was started sometime in the mid 2000s, Petrini said.
Since Active Minds aims to educate students and involve them in changing the conversation about mental illness, the club hosts several major events throughout the school year. Their first big event is during Suicide Prevention Week in the fall semester, when Active Minds hosts the Field of Memories on the Student Union lawn. Petrini said that the 1,100 yellow flags symbolize the students who die by suicide each year and get students talking about mental health.
In the spring semester, Active Minds tables in the Student Union during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Active Minds also distributes care packages to students during finals weeks.
While these are some of their major events, Active Minds hosts regular meetings on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Student Union. Petrini said that these meetings provide time for members to have open discussions about mental health, come up with ideas for spreading their message around campus and prepare for big events.
Sometimes the smaller events can have a big impact, too. Petrini recalled a time that Active Minds members wrote compliments on slips of paper during a meeting and then handed them out to students on campus. These “free compliments” brightened students’ days and demonstrated how a simple gesture could make a positive impact.
Active Minds continues to advocate for better mental health resources. Petrini noted that some have found long wait times at UConn’s Mental Health (formerly known as Counseling and Mental Health Services) and spoke about how her organization wants to fix problems like these to make mental health services more accessible to students.
“Something that stuck with me was something our president Alex [Schaible] said,” Petrini said. “And it was like, we got all this funding for a gym for our physical health, and we still now just have the top floor in Arjona for student [mental] health and wellness, and I think that kind of speaks volumes and that’s definitely something that we are looking to change in the sense of we want something beyond just one floor in a building for mental health purposes.”
Students can interact with Active Minds on campus during their many events throughout the year. They can contact Active Minds at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit them on Instagram @activemindsuconn.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.