Group Advocates for Mental Health on Campus

Friday, February 24, 2012

With the mental health stigmas that persist in today’s society, few college students have the courage to seek help if they find themselves in any level of distress resulting from the mental toll that the pressures of college can present.  Active Minds, a student-led organization new to Saint Joseph’s, seeks to remove these stigmas, and to raise awareness of the importance of mental health, especially during the college years.

Founded in 2001, Active Minds has been spreading this message across college campuses throughout North America, and this past November, the University welcomed the organization’s 371st chapter.

Marybeth Ayella, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and co-advisor for the organization, explains that over the last few years, she’s had a number of students confide in her their struggles related to mental health issues, compelling her to become involved with the organization.

Saint Joseph’s University sophomore Megan Lydon, after experiencing her share of personal struggles related to mental health throughout her high school years, hopes to help other students find the help that she found.

“I’ve always had a really great support system, which has helped me so much.  That is what I hope this group can provide for people:  A support system—or at least something that encourages them to seek out a support system,” says Lydon.

Active Minds has several events planned to promote this awareness on campus.  One that is highly anticipated, scheduled for March 29th, will represent the student lives lost to suicide each year.  Suicide, explains Ayella, is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Saint Joseph’s was selected as one of only two Philadelphia area colleges to host “Send Silence Packing,” an event that will consist of a public display of 1,100 backpacks, representing the annual number of college student lives lost to suicide.

The organization also recently took part in the school’s annual Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and plans to host a “National Stress Out Day” in the week preceding final exams.

“The fear of others knowing—the stigma of mental illness—is what motivates Active Minds as an organization to create more dialogue on these issues on college campuses,” explains Ayella. “I am in complete agreement with what this organization is trying to do—open dialogue, reduce stigma, and encourage appropriate help-seeking,” she says.

Encouraging help-seeking is one of Alaina Loguidice’s goals as a member of the organization, a senior who is the research co-chair for Active Minds.

“True strength comes from those who seek help when they need it,” says Loguidice, who has also personally struggled with issues related to mental health.  “Whatever we do,” she adds, “We are trying to make the greatest positive impact on campus.”

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