Putting an end to the stigma
March 21, 2017
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The University of Toledo is home to many diverse student organizations, but one in particular is making a point to address the effects of mental health.
Sofie Rodriguez, a second-year recreational therapy major, and Bailey Kurtz, a second-year pre-med exercise science major, recently founded a chapter of Active Minds at the University of Toledo.
This organization is the first group at UT completely dedicated to mental health awareness.
Rodriguez and Kurtz had been friends since the beginning of their first year at UT. After sharing their experiences with mental health with each other, they decided something needed to be done.
“This moment not only brought us closer but sparked a passion in us to share our stories with the student body,” Rodriguez said.
Both Rodriguez and Kurtz have family members who suffer from a mental illness.
“We knew that we weren’t the only ones on campus who had similar experiences,” Rodriguez said. “We wanted an organization that would create open conversation about mental health for people to not only ask questions but to also meet other individuals who share similar stories.”
Active Minds held its first meeting in the Student Union Jan. 23 of this year. Since then, this group of more than 25 students has been meeting every other Monday night from 7:30–8:30pm in Rocket Hall room 1542.
These biweekly meetings last about one hour and focus on a specific topic or illness. Some of the topics that have been discussed this semester include eating disorders, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Active Minds is an organization made up of more than 400 student-run chapters on different college campuses across the United States and Canada. They are dedicated to promoting awareness, discussion, education and support regarding psychiatric disorders.
The original chapter was founded by Alison Malmon at the end of her first year at the University of Pennsylvania, after her brother committed suicide. Malmon also founded a chapter at Georgetown University the following year, and the organization took off.
In 2003, Active Minds was officially established with a headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“Active Minds, to me, is a movement,” Rodriguez said. “It is a group of students trying to end the stigma against mental illness.”
Grace Sheckler, a second-year healthcare administration major, heard about the new group through her service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, which Rodriguez and Kurtz both belong to.
Sheckler said she chose to join Active Minds because of the impact mental health has made on her life after her high school best friend committed suicide.
“There is still such a shroud surrounding mental illness, and we need to start speaking more about it,” Sheckler said. “I joined because I want to be a part of making that change.”
Aside from their biweekly meetings, Active Minds occasionally organizes other events. On March 1, they hosted a table in the Student Union and passed out orange ribbons for self-injury awareness day.
Rodriguez said they also plan to host an event in the fall called the “Backpack Project.” They will collect gently used backpacks and set up a display to symbolize the number of college students who commit suicide each year.
To find out more information, visit their Facebook page, @activemindsToledo.