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Active Minds hopes to gain charter

Jan. 22, 2010

By Bethany Moore
Staff writer

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among 18 to 24-year-olds and the second-leading cause of death for college students alone, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Baylor counseling services is attempting to bring awareness to this issue by taking part in an organization sweeping across college campuses called Active Minds.

Active Minds is a nonprofit, student-run organization that aims to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

Austin graduate student Kerrie Bond is in the process of chartering an Active Minds chapter on Baylor's campus to, as she explained, help people realize the issue.

"Mental illness is important on any college campus," Bond said. "So it is important for us to get the word out that having issues and going through hard things is normal. We want to help Baylor students who are going through these issues by highlighting the resources we have on campus."

Bond, who is studying higher education student administration, said Active Minds is a way for students to be reached before they do something dangerous to themselves or others on campus.

"Nationwide, mental illnesses are a huge issue," Bond said, "Take Virginia Tech [student shootings] for example.We certainly wouldn't want anything like that to happen to Baylor."

Active Minds helps spread awareness by holding various events dealing with issues prevalent to college students, such as sexual assaults, depression, stress, alcohol, eating disorders and sleep deprivation.

Bond said even if people don't feel like they have extreme forms of these disorders, through Baylor's resources they can get rid of the stigma associated with counseling.

"When I was an undergrad, I was depressed when my parents got divorced," Bond said. "I sought counseling and it was great to be able to talk to someone. I wasn't the only person depressed, stress-eating or upset on campus. So I think it is important to get the word out there that you are not the only one who feels that way."

Dr. Jim Marsh, director for counseling services and the adviser for Active Minds, said that six years ago the counseling center decided to begin outreach programs for students to raise awareness for the issues facing college students today and for the services that are available to them.

"We really need to not just be in an office building but also be about the business of going out to students who may not normally seek us," Marsh said.

Fort Worth junior Rachel Chasse is one of the students interested in Active Minds and said that these programs would help students who didn't know they had an issue, get the help they need.

"People a lot of times at Baylor, suffer silently with depression or bipolar disease, because they don't know they have it," Chasse said, "Hopefully through this program they can find commonality and realizes their problems are nothing to be ashamed of."

Marsh also explained that one of the characteristics of the program that make it successful are the students encouraging students.

"Peers listen to one another," Marsh said.

"It is one thing if a message comes from me as a psychologist. But when students talk to students there is often more willingness to listen and hear what the message is. That is really the idea behind the program. "

Active Minds began in 2001 at the University of Pennsylvania by junior Alison Malmon, whose brother had committed suicide in college a year earlier.

Her brother Brian had been severely depressed for the past three years but had concealed his symptoms from those around him.

Malmon started Active Minds as a way to bring awareness to those symptoms her brother was hiding and hopefully lead others to receive help before taking extreme measures.

Today the program has grown to include 242 college campus in The United States.

To get involved, email Bond at Kerrie_Bond@baylor.edu