INDIANOLA, Iowa — A new organization at Simpson College seeks to improve mental health awareness and end the stigma associated with it.
Active Minds is a national organization with more than 400 campus chapters dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues to college students.
Rae Konz, president of the organization, brought Active Minds to Simpson. Her passion for the program stemmed from her work with mental health on the Student Government Association. After hearing about Active Minds from a counselor, Konz took off running with the project.
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She felt an organization about mental health promotion was lacking at Simpson. To her knowledge, Active Minds is the first organization at Simpson to spread awareness about mental health for college students.
Konz wants Simpson’s Active Minds chapter to encourage students to feel comfortable talking about their mental health. While not everyone struggles with a mental illness, mental health is something everyone can improve.
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“I really want to change the stigma behind the word mental health and educate people on what mental health is and that it’s different than mental illness,” Konz said.
Freshman James Simmons, fundraising chair of Active Minds, agreed that the perceptions of mental health need to change.
“For a long time, there’s been such a stigma around mental health,” Simmons said. “Everyone thinks counselors are just for crazy people. People don’t want to admit that they need help or that they’re struggling to get through the day because it makes them feel weak. It’s important that we make it an open conversation so people can get the help they need and realize that they’re not crazy.”
Kirsten Clark, vice president of Active Minds, also hopes to help students feel more comfortable discussing mental health.
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“Mental health is a serious issue, especially on college campuses, and it’s not talked about enough and people don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” she said.
Many mental illnesses first present themselves at the college age, and the added stress college brings makes students especially vulnerable to having mental health issues, according to Active Minds’ website. One in four adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder, making college students an important population to educate.
The organization is in the beginning stages of development. The group’s meetings consist of brainstorming mental health issues pertaining to Simpson students. Konz wants to tailor events to students and the surrounding community so the most relevant issues are addressed.
One of the topics Konz is passionate about is educating freshmen, especially during their first semester, about mental health and the resources available on campus. The stress of moving away from home, being independent and having a large course load may be a challenge for new students. She hopes to be present at move-in days so students, as well as their parents, can be assured Simpson is equipped to handle mental health issues.
Other topics Active Minds members are interested in include body image, mental illnesses, stress management, self-care and suicide prevention.