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Active Minds Chapter Opens Students’ Perspectives on Mental Health

By Anna Caroline Barker
for Hottytoddy.com

Ole Miss students shine light on the topic of mental health through a leading nonprofit organization called Active Minds.

Ole Miss opened an Active Minds chapter on campus in August 2016. Its focus is mental health awareness and suicide prevention for young adults, as well as to eliminate the stigma that the topic of mental health carries.

Ole Miss is one of the 450 colleges in the U.S. with an Active Minds chapter. Their involvement includes booking mental health speakers and hosting events and exhibits on campus. Recently, Active Minds hosted an exhibit called Send Silence Packing Feb. 26, in which over 1,000 backpacks were placed throughout grove representing each student that has committed suicide.

Sydney Sergis is a senior at Ole Miss and one of the 300 registered members of Active Minds. During her time spent at the university, Active Minds has made a positive impact on her.

“It has made me aware of mental health issues and the types of programs that our university has to help with this,” Sergis said. “It has made me aware of practical things we can do to improve mental health like sleeping, eating healthy and exercise.”

Active Minds is funded by donations and fundraisers such as Facebook fundraisers, peer-to-peer fundraisers and chapter fundraisers. Their website www.activeminds.org also allows anyone to donate by the press of a button. The organization uses these funds to hire professional speakers, host events, and fund their national conference called “Bridging Gaps: Changing Culture in the Everyday” in Washington, D.C. This conference was recently held Feb. 21-22 and hundreds of chapters all over the nation gathered together and had the opportunity to listen to many different keynote speakers on the topic of mental health as well as participate in student-led sessions. The purpose of this conference was to explore different ways that students can change the culture of mental health in their everyday lives.

Program spending of $1.6 million funded the Send Silence Packing exhibit to 29 different colleges, 129 speaking events to 28 states and training more than 17,000 volunteer members in 479 chapters. For a fifth consecutive year, Active Minds was recognized as a GreatNonProfits Top-Rated Nonprofit organization.

Nikki Sullivan is the president of the Active Minds chapter at Ole Miss. Her involvement in this organization has helped her become more educated on issues that surround mental health.

“I chose to get involved with Active Minds because I am passionate about reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues,” Sullivan said. “It has been so rewarding seeing people realize that they’re not alone.”

The campus organization continues to work on raising awareness and creating a positive climate among the student body by hosting events such as the “Out Of The Darkness” walk that happened Oct. 27 benefitting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

In one year, Active Minds reached 529,054 students through campaigns and events and had a positive impact on hundreds of chapters in the U.S. including Ole Miss. This organization hopes to increase that number and continue to empower students to speak openly about mental health and have access to the help they need.

Emily Bauer is a junior at the University of Mississippi and just recently learned about the Active Minds chapter at Ole Miss.

“Mental health is something that we all deal with but never want to talk about,” Bauer said. “We don’t want others to think our life isn’t perfect and that’s where the problem begins. I think this organization could be the best thing to happen to our campus.”

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