Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Paula Wesson, Managing Editor
On Feb. 11, 2015, Student Government Association voted to approve Active Minds as a new SGA-funded club on campus.
Active Minds is a national organization started in 2000 to increase awareness of mental illness, combat the stigma of mental illness, encourage students to receive help for mental illness, and prevent suicide. The organization has clubs at more than 400 colleges, including nearby Muhlenberg College and Moravian College.
Emily Baxter, President of Cedar Crest’s Active Minds club, said she wanted to start a chapter at Cedar Crest because of her own experiences with bipolar disorder. She said, “I remember I didn’t want to ask for help, when I was in my freshman year of college at another school.”
Baxter continued, “1100 [college] students die each year because of suicide… Students feel like they can’t go to their health services for help. They feel like they can’t go to their friends for help. They feel like they can’t go to their families for help. And that’s got to change.”
Lauren Marie Nocheck, fifth year writing and art double major, agreed that it’s important to ask for help. Nocheck said, “I had a lot of trouble my freshman year when I wasn’t honest about [my anxiety]… I didn’t want to fess up. Then, when I finally did, the school was very willing to help me.”
Although it is important for students to seek professional help through Disability Services and Health Services on campus, Baxter believes Active Minds can help raise awareness of mental health issues.
Emily Brundage, President of Active Minds at Muhlenberg College, said in an email, “We like to emphasize that our club is a safe space for discussions. This basically means that one member can’t out another member outside of the group meetings. That makes it a little easier to talk about.”
Nocheck agreed that it is important to be discreet. Bullying someone or singling people out can cause such individuals “to be quiet in the corner and just not say anything.”
Active Minds’ first event on Cedar Crest campus was the Stomp Out Stigma event on Tuesday, March 17, where students were invited to stomp on balloons with mental health stigmas written on them.
Katie Nemeth, Secretary of Cedar Crest’s Active Minds, said the event “was fairly successful. We had many people stop by to read the messages on our balloons and to ‘stomp out’ the stigma.”
Nemeth added, “After this trial run I think we can make the event even more successful. This event’s purpose was to raise mental health awareness and, while I think we did a good job with it, I think that there are always ways we can do better.”
In addition to events like this, the club will also hold fundraisers beginning next semester. One potential fall fundraiser is a bracelet sale with different colored bracelets representing different mental illnesses.
According to Active Minds national webpage, college clubs need to raise at least $250 for the national organization per year in order to remain recognized by them and receive access to their resources. Clubs that raise $500 and $1000 will receive 4-star and 5-star ratings respectively.
Brundage said the fundraising is a new requirement and Muhlenberg’s Active Minds chapter was unable to raise $1000.
“It is tough because you want to raise money for your club so you have your own money but then you also need to raise the $1,000. And with a small school like Muhlenberg, that is difficult,” Brundage said.
Prior to the new requirement, Muhlenberg College was rated a 5-star school by Active Minds and was chosen one of 12 colleges in the Send Silence Packing Spring 2015 Tour.
On Thursday, April 16, Active Minds displayed 1100 backpacks at Muhlenberg College, representing the 1100 suicides by college students each year. Cedar Crest provided transportation to students who wished to visit the display.
Brundage added, “With Send Silence Packing, not only do we hope that it will increase our membership, but it will also create awareness and show the campus that we are here and that we want to and need to talk about mental illnesses. This is not something we can ignore.”
Baxter agreed, “Let’s beat this stigma on the college campuses. Let’s get these college students help.”