Active minds promotes mental health

By Megan Wimsatt and By Megan Wimsatt

College can be a rough for students, especially when it comes to mental health. Rena Onady started Active Minds at the University two years ago in order to spread awareness of mental illness, after struggling with her own.

Active Minds seeks to erase the stigma behind mental illnesses, which can make it hard for people to talk about their experiences. 

“I was kind of struggling in my classes and I got really bad grades and I felt terrible about it. I realized after all the grades were in that I was depressed,” she said. “That really affected my grades and that’s why I was feeling so down on myself.”

Some students may struggle without knowing why and feel terrible about their grades when it may not really be their fault, Onady said.

Active Minds focuses on an array of mental illnesses, with two of the main topics being depression and anxiety.

“We definitely hit hard on depression and anxiety because those are so common with our age group, but we really kind of leave it up to our members,” Onady said. “We cater to their needs.” 

Polls are put on Active Minds’ OrgSync, allowing people to vote on what should be covered at meetings. Active Minds has covered topics such as dissociative identity disorder, ADHD and schizophrenia. Meetings will have presentations on the topic, as well as an interactive portion when possible.

“For schizophrenia, we gave them a little handout to do that was somewhat difficult and took a lot of thinking to answer the questions and then we played a YouTube video of what it sounds like to have schizophrenia so they were able to experience how difficult it is to concentrate when you constantly have these voices yelling at you, and I think that kind of helped erase the stigma against it and what people go through when they have a mental illness,” Onady said.

Part of helping erase the stigma behind mental illness is being able to talk about experiences, which can help open people’s eyes, Onady said. Being able to have that conversation could help people realize their struggles may be due to something more as well.

“There’s a fine line between what’s normal and what’s abnormal or kind of excessive and we’re really trying to help people understand that with our organization,” Onady said.

Active Minds also seeks to raise awareness about treatment, coping and resources for people struggling with mental illness. Onady referenced the University’s counseling center and the Psychological Services Center, located on the third floor of the psychology building, as places students can go to seek help.

The organization is not just for students, but for community members who are seeking help or a space to talk as well.

“We’re definitely not exclusive,” Onady said. “It’s always the goal to have everyone who needs it come.”

Active Minds holds sporadic events over the year, such as “Stress Less” events near exam week. The organization will be holding a 5K in late April that is open to the community.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.