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The Blue & Gray Press | June 29, 2017

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Mental Health Group Starts UMW Chapter

By STACY HORNE

Ever had something that you were just dying to tell someone but you couldn’t?  Is your roommate sleeping with her boyfriend’s best friend and no one has a clue?  Is the pressure of finals stressing you out so much that you’re just not sure how much more you can take?
Active Minds, a mental health advocacy group on campus is trying to set up a program similar to postsecret.com.  Flyers on campus encourage students to write their secrets on a post card and send it in.  The group then hopes to post them all together on campus.  It’s a way for students to say what is on their minds without having to worry about what others may think or say about it.
Active Minds is a non-profit organization started at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 with the goal of providing information about resources available concerning mental health issues on college campuses throughout the country.  The organization was created by Alison Malmon after the suicide death of her brother a year earlier.
“The organization is providing the education and support that my brother never received when he was a student; the knowledge that he was not alone, that he could regain a full life and that help was available,” Malmon said.
About a year later, a friend of Malmon’s, who was attending Georgetown University, started a chapter there.  Since that time, it has expanded to 57 campuses across the U.S., including UMW.
UMW Chapter President, Kristina Etheridge, is a senior from Yorktown.  She and co-founder Erin Polk, realized that a great number of students didn’t realize that psychological services were available on campus or where they were located.  They found out about Active Minds through professors about three years ago and contacted Malmon about opening a campus chapter.
“Our main goal is to provide discussion about mental health in general.  We can provide statistics about eating disorders, bi-polar disorders and more and let people know how and where they can get help.

We can provide assistance on a friend-to-friend basis and will help in any way possible.  We can offer referrals and have a wealth of information into psychological services.”
Etheridge said that mental health issues touch everybody’s lives in some way.  The group brings speakers to campus to talk about issues that may be affecting students.  They also want people to feel comfortable about coming to the club and they want to be able to put a face on mental illness.
“Think about someone breaking their arm and doing nothing about it.  No one would even consider it.  Now imagine that two out of three people who break their arm choose not to seek medical attention.  It seems crazy but that’s what happens with mental illness.”
Malmon points out that Active Minds does not provide direct psychological help for students that need it.
“It leads students in the direction of the professional health they need.  For the students members, it also serves as a support network and avenue for students to discuss their experiences with mental health and mental health disorders.”
The local group thinks that their version of postsecret.com can be a way for students to share their very personal concerns.  They feel it would be a therapeutic way to share their thoughts without feeling exposed.
“The concerns are out there,” Etheridge said.  “People just need to realize that they are not alone.  Anonymity is definitely a concern, especially on a small campus.  This is a way to share their personal stories with complete anonymity.”
The group has a goal to be able to provide a packet of information to all incoming freshmen about psychological services available on campus, in the community and online.  They are also planning for Mental Health Awareness Week in the spring.
“Active Minds has created a voice for thousands of college students to talk about their experiences coping with mental health disorders and to educate their peers about these issues,” Malmon said. “The organization, and our campus chapters, is showing all students that issues of mental health are real, they are nobody’s fault, and everyone has the right to get the help they need.” The UMW chapter meets once a week, at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, in Monroe 201.

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