Members of the Active Minds organization on campus. (Photo by Stephanie Lockhart).Members of the Active Minds organization on campus. (Photo by Stephanie Lockhart).April Oberman - Staff Writer
aprildob@uab.edu

Nearly 50 percent of college students experience overwhelming anxiety or suicidal thoughts. One in 10 students seriously considers attempting suicide, and 1,100 students commit suicide each year. In order to raise awareness for mental health and attempt to counteract harsh realities, Active Minds, a mental health organization on campus, strives to eliminate stigma and change the conversation of mental health.

“We empower students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking. We are trying making a difference on campuses and in the community by providing information, leadership opportunities and advocacy training,” said junior Emily Farmer, Active Minds president.

Every year, Active Minds leads events such as Send Silence Packing, National Day Without Stigma, Eating Disorders Awareness Week and Stress Less Week. On Oct. 5, Active Minds held an event for National Day Without Stigma called “Smash out Stigma.”

“We threw water balloons filled with paint at a canvas labeled ‘Stigma.’ We were joined by the Crisis Center, Student Health and Wellness Center to offer information and free lemonade to students,” Farmer said.

Daniel Unger, junior neuroscience major and treasurer of the UAB chapter of Active Minds, joined the group for his interest in mental healthcare and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“My favorite memory is seeing how many people we have affected with our events like Stress Less Week and Send Silence Packing,” Unger said. “It is rewarding to see people recognize the importance of AM’s mission.”

Active Minds represents a wide range of mental disorders but tends to focus on the ones that affect students the most. Farmer describes the club as a determined body of people, striving to make campus a safe place for those who struggle with mental illness. She decided to join Active Minds because she felt it is where she belongs.

“I was diagnosed with GAD [Generalized Anxiety Disorder] at a very young age. I struggle with it constantly and have been battling depression on and off for years. I would always get the comments, ‘It’s all in your head,’ ‘get over it,’ ‘you just like the attention,’ and so on and so forth,” Farmer said. “It is very similar to telling someone who has cancer that they just like the attention and they should suck it up, even though it is a debilitating illness.”

Farmer invites students to be a part of Active Minds, whether affected by mental illness or not.

“[Active Minds] is a group of people that will talk you down from a dark place at 3 a.m. and refer you to the care that you need,” Farmer said. “It is a group of lifelong friends that are so genuine, kind and caring. You do not need to be affected by a mental illness to get anything out of it. We address simple college stressors as well.”