Mental Illness and the College Student

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Raising Campus Mental Health Awareness

college studentWe may live in the twenty-first century, but our understanding and social acceptance of mental health issues is wanting. For too long people have suffered, often silently, sometimes taking their lives when the pressure becomes too much for them to handle.

Last week, SayCampusLife touched on the topic of college stress, sharing with our readers a list of 20 of the Top 50 most stressful schools in America. That list was developed by The Daily Beast, an extrapolation of a U.S. News & World Report survey of the top schools in the nation. One of the school’s featured, Cornell University, has recorded six student suicides in six months leading some to wonder if Cornell should be labeled a “suicide school.”

Active Minds

Labels aside, students with mental health problems are not getting the help they need according to Active Minds, an organization whose mission it is to destigmatize mental health disorders on college campuses nationwide, indeed around the world.

The organization was founded by Alison Malmon in 2001, a University of Penn who junior whose older brother committed suicide one year earlier. Brian Malmon had been undergoing treatment for what was later diagnosed as a schizoaffective disorder, but took his life in March 2000. From this tragedy, Malmon decided to make sure that mental health issues were raised on campus, founding Open Minds at Penn.

Student Involvement

In 2003, as the organization caught on at other campuses, Open Minds was renamed Active Minds Inc. to reflect student involvement and advocacy in the mental health movement. That same year Active Minds was Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization, and has spread to more than 250 campuses across the U.S., Australia and Canada.

Active Minds chapters are student run and are designed to help college students learn more about mental health and related issues as well as getting help immediately, if needed. Active Minds also works as a liaison between students and the mental health community.

Not Alone

Student run chapters regularly hold outreach events in a bid to raise awareness of their organization and to let students know that they have a safe place to go for information and help. Importantly, Active Minds seeks to reassure students that they are not alone in their struggles, noting that as many as half of all students saying that they have been depressed within the past year, finding it difficult to function.

Of encouragement are the number of people who are actively sharing their personal struggles online. Instead of succumbing to mental illness, these students are finding that there is no need for them to be ashamed and are managing their lives with the help of a supporting community of friends and family members.

See AlsoHow do you tell if you or a friend might need some help?

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