By: Parker Williamson
Four social work students at Missouri Western are coming together to start a new student organization that will help bring awareness to mental health issues.
As part of a senior project, Jacob Allen, AJ Warner, Kati Wertz and Carly Green are bringing Active Minds to Missouri Western. Active Minds is an organization aimed at bringing awareness to mental health issues and breaking the stigma associated with them. The four find this important because recent studies have shown a rise in students struggling with social anxiety and depression. They also recognize that many students feel uncomfortable walking into the counseling center all alone.
Jacob Allen is the president of the club and feels the most important part of bringing Active Minds to campus is helping students recognize and understand symptoms of common mental health issues. He wants students to feel more comfortable talking about these issues so they aren’t stuck trying to figure it out on their own.
“We want students to be able to go to the counseling center instead of just suffering in silence without the tools that are available to help them,” Allen said.
The vice president of the organization, Kati Wertz, said they wanted to start this conversation so people don’t feel like an outsider.
“Students should know that their feelings are real. It is not just all in their heads,” Warner said. They know that some students drop out because they can’t handle it or work through the stress or anxiety. The group hopes that by bringing awareness to these issues and helping struggling students they can help some become better students.
The first goal of the club is to get members and spread awareness of the organization. After they get meetings started the first planned topic to discuss and work on is social anxiety. They find this important because it is the most common mental health issue among college students. They hope they can get rid of this stigma by educating others about it. They also want to create an open and comfortable environment to talk about social anxiety and other mental health issues.
The club plans to survey the students of Missouri Western to better understand the specific needs on this campus. The biggest thing they need to really get started is student interest. They especially need input from students who live on campus.
Active Minds is a national organization that started in 2001. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people and the organization is focused on mental health awareness and support. It has grown to reach more than 5 million people nationwide, and currently has chapters on over 600 campuses. While Active Minds sets a framework for chapters to follow, there is no set focus. The organization leaves it up to individual chapters to meet their campus specific needs. The Missouri Western chapter hopes that Active Minds can make a positive impact for students by creating a network of open and understanding peers.