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Join the Club: Active Minds
If you’re looking to pursue a new talent, passionate about a certain issue or even just looking to meet new people, the University’s 300-plus student organizations are a good place to start. In collaboration with the Office of Student Activities in the Division of Student Affairs, Syracuse University News will be highlighting some of the many organizations that enrich campus life. The Join the Club series offers a glimpse into the organizations through their members—their mission, the events and activities they plan, and why you might want to join.
Heading to college is a huge transition. Some may struggle to adjust.
Members of Active Minds, such as Jenesis Gayden ’18, the organization’s treasurer, want other students to know there are many resources that can help. Active Minds raises awareness about mental health and provides information about how and where to get assistance.
Gayden, who is majoring in psychology and neuroscience and forensic science in the College of Arts and Sciences, answers some questions about the work of Active Minds and how its members want to destigmatize mental illness through greater understanding.
Q: Tell me about your club. What’s your mission?
A: Active Minds is a student-run organization focused on mental health awareness and advocacy. We are not a support group. Rather, our goal is to teach others about mental health, reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and help others understand that you don’t need a serious mental illness to still seek help.
Q: Why is mental health awareness so important, especially for college students?
A: Teaching college students the importance of mental health is important because college is such a time of change. For some people, college is the first time they’re away from home. They may be homesick, struggling with making friends or just having trouble adjusting to college overall. Mental health can decline during this time.
It’s important to spread awareness about all the resources available, such as the counseling center, so that others can seek help for themselves or refer a friend. We are trying to change the campus conversation about mental health. We want to address the needs of the students and hopefully make our voices heard to make changes that will benefit the mental health of our community.
Q: What are some of the activities/events that you organize during the year?
A: Things we have done since I joined in 2014 include Send Silence Packing, a nationwide tour that spread awareness about the incidence of 1,100 college suicides that happen per year. Each backpack placed on the Quad shared a story of suicide written by a loved one.
We have also put on National Eating Disorder Awareness Week annually, where we host many speakers and events spreading awareness on eating disorders. Last spring, we brought Philly-based rapper Kai Roberts to the University. He tells a story through his music about his struggle and recovery with panic disorder and depression.
These are just a few of the things we do. We also do a lot of club bonding activities, such as potlucks and game nights!
Q: Why did you join the club?
A: I personally joined Active Minds because I truly believe in destigmatizing mental illness. I suffer from mental illness and growing up, I never had a safe space to talk about it. Active Minds embodies my belief of mental health awareness and advocacy.
Q: How has it impacted your Syracuse experience?
A: Joining Active Minds has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my college career. I have made so many close friends and I have made an impact on campus in a way I never imagined I would. The number of people who came up and simply said “thank you” to us during our Send Silence Packing display still resonates with me.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining?
A: If you have an interest in mental health advocacy and awareness, I would encourage you to join. We welcome people from all backgrounds with varying interest levels. If you’re interested in joining, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, like us on our Facebook page “Active Minds at Syracuse University” or join our Org Sync page. We meet regularly throughout the semester.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week Oct. 2-8, several events are planned for campus through the efforts of Active Minds, the Student Association, the Counseling Center, Hendricks Chapel and the Office of Health Promotion. Active Minds is hosting a roundtable discussion, “Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, in the Jabberwocky Café in the Schine Student Center.