Active Minds want to help
The stigma attached with mental illness keeps many students from seeking out help when they really need it. One group on campus hopes that by removing that stigma, more students will get the assistance they need to lead stronger, healthier lives.
Active Minds is a campus club that seeks to promote the education and awareness of mental health. Group members act as a resource for, and a link between, mental health advocates.
Only in its second year on campus, Active Minds recently received a five-star rating from the national organization based in Washington, D.C.
Sonya Weisburd, regional chapter manager for Active Minds, said, “A five-star chapter benefits every college campus by increasing the visibility of counseling services, creating an environment where dialogue about mental health is safe and encouraged so that people can talk about the issue openly, and breaking down the stigma that exists around the issue.”
Shelley Broyles, secretary, Active Minds, said she joined the club because she plans on becoming a psychologist. “I thought, ‘What a great way to get involved.’ There are students on this campus who don’t know where to get help. They don’t know that there is help available to students right here at Johnson County Community College.
“The college has a program where you can go see a counselor, and if the counselor feels it warrants it, you can be referred to a psychologist and go to a few sessions at no cost to you,” she said. “Students don’t know that these kinds of services are available. This group is here to help them, to let them know that they don’t have to suffer these kinds of things alone.”
Susie Sympson, co-adviser, Active Minds, talked to several students about starting a chapter at JCCC. An honors forum in psychology, which Sympson taught, provided the framework to get the club started. Sympson, an adjunct instructor of psychology, said she thought the college needed to do more to help students who were struggling.
“After [the shooting at] Virginia Tech, colleges were very aware of campus violence. But campus violence is such a small part of the picture – an outlier relative to the number of students who commit suicide each year,” Sympson said.
Sympson said she has read in her students’ papers their stories of real pain, and she knew the need for help was real and immediate.
“It just breaks my heart, some of those things that they’ve written,” she said.
Sarah Parrish, president, Active Minds, said she wants to work with other clubs on campus to co-sponsor events that get the student body thinking.
A recent cooperative effort with the Veteran’s Advisory Group and the Veteran’s Club brought “The War Within: The Veteran Suicide Epidemic” exhibit to JCCC. The exhibit featured 69 white combat boots representing the 69 soldiers from Kansas and Missouri who committed suicide after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan through 2009.
The club has also helped with several eating-disorder awareness events and hosted a speaker on post-traumatic stress disorder. They also are raising money to bring more nationally recognized speakers to campus, she said.
Parrish said she wants everyone to know that “normal is subjective.”
“We can’t control how our brains work or how our minds are wired,” she said. “Life is stressful. It’s stressful for everyone. We want people to know that we’re here, and we want to help.”
Active Minds meetings are at noon on Wednesdays in Carlsen Center 232. Parrish suggested students join the group’s Facebook page if they can’t come to meetings.
Co-adviser Kristen Harth, counselor, said, the group is not a support group for sharing problems, but it is a place where students can get the referrals and support they need to work through mental health concerns.
“Our goal,” Harth said, “is to find others the help they need.”
For more information on Active Minds, contact Sympson.