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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Active Minds to hold mental health awareness week

Published: March 14, 2008
Section: News

The Brandeis chapter of Active Minds will host a Mental Health Awareness Week beginning March 17. During the week, the club will sponsor events to inform students and raise awareness about mental health issues.

In an e-mail, co-president Alanna Goslin ’08 of Active Minds explained the importance of a Mental Health Awareness Week. “Almost every student has been affected by a mental health issue while being at college,” she said, “it is important for students to know that they are not alone…we need to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses.”

Village Quad Senator Mike Kerns ’09, an Active Minds club member, also emphasized the significance of reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. “[People need] public reassurance that it’s okay to suffer from a mental illness and take an interest in your mental health.”

On Monday, at 9 p.m., the club will have a coffeehouse at Chums and on Tuesday and Wednesday Active Minds will table in lower Usdan. The purpose of these events is to answer questions about the organization, distribute materials and resources, and raise awareness.

Active Minds has been a recognized club since the spring of 2005. It was previously named the Brandeis Organization for Mental Health Awareness, but changed its name in order to be a chapter of the national, non-profit organization Active Minds. As a chapter, the club receives support, guidance and resources from the national organization.

According to its club description, the group’s mission is to “increase students’ awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources…[and] encourage students to seek help as soon as it is needed, and serve as a liaison between students and the mental health community.”

Since 2005, the club has experienced highs and lows in terms of organization and in the number of events hosted. According to Michelle Shleisnger ’08, the ideal purpose of the club, to act as an intermediary between the Psychology Counseling Center and the students, “fell apart.” Club members underwent training so they would be able to refer students to the counseling center, but because of members leaving, nothing came of it.

Schlesinger remarked on the difficulty of maintaining a club focused on mental health; “it’s hard…because a lot of people want to go to a support group, but not participate in advocacy.”

“This year it’s about rebuilding our club,” Kerns said. He then explained how the club’s primary purpose now is to “promote awareness,” not act as a liaison between students and PCC. He stated that the club realized that acting as an intermediary “[is] not a appropriate route to take…we’re not qualified.”

Goslin described the club’s long term goals stating, “we hope that as students become more educated and aware they will be more likely to seek help or encourage peers to seek help…Brandeis offers many services for students regarding mental health and we want to not only make students more aware of these services, but also make them more willing to utilize them.”

In April, the club will follow up Awareness Week with smaller events and is planning to incorporate experts as well as invite speakers who have been public with their own experiences dealing with mental illness.