“My idea of our club’s success would be if saying ‘I’m going to Counseling Services’ is as normal as saying ‘I’m going to Health Services.’”
Active Minds, a DC-based nonprofit, unites young adults under a common cause: raising awareness about and erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness. For the past few years, Active Minds at Tufts has joined the upwards of 400 campus chapters that support the organization. In addition to nationwide events, such as De-stress Fest, Mental Health Day, Day without Stigma, and Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the Tufts group, led by co-presidents Kari McNeil (C’18) and Danielle Mulligan (C’18), has a variety of unique opportunities in store.
McNeil and Mulligan are particularly excited for Monologue Night, set to occur in April, which encourages students to share their personal experiences surrounding mental health. There will be an optional on-campus workshop on Saturday, March 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Tufts students as well as students from the greater Boston area to learn performance techniques.
The club is also proud to present the Art in April exhibition, which will highlight how healing and therapeutic art can be for those battling mental illness. Although School of the Museum of Fine Arts students have always organized the event, this year, they are partnering with Tufts to showcase pieces, each of which will feature a description about how art has served the student artist. The Art in April show will also include a dance movement therapist, a “zentangle” workshop that encourages students to explore the relaxation benefits of drawing, and much more.
Throughout the spring, both the flowers and Active Minds’ efforts to raise awareness will be blooming on campus. During the fall semester, Active Minds brought PostSecret to Tufts, which is a project that encourages people to share their fears, hopes, funny moments, struggles, and other stories on postcards. McNeil and Mulligan affirmed that more cards will be on display during the spring semester to strengthen PostSecret’s presence. They also plan to work with the campus administration on placing mental health awareness signs, similar to the sexual assault awareness signs, in school bathrooms, as well as adding the Counseling Services’ phone number to the back of student ID cards.
“We hope to help students both bottom-up and top-down…We want to not only refer them to resources, but also work on strengthening resources,” Mulligan said.
As stated on the Active Minds website, “[Because] of an unnecessary shame…mental health is not discussed and too many students are suffering in silence.” McNeil reiterated that people may feel hidden or afraid due to mental illness, especially those who are away from home for the first time and are facing new emotions. Ideally, a culture of acceptance and openness will help students feel less alone in their challenges.
“I want students to feel comfortable knowing that it’s okay not to feel okay sometimes,” she said. “My idea of our club’s success would be if saying ‘I’m going to Counseling Services’ is as normal as saying ‘I’m going to Health Services.’”
The group meets every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. in Eaton 333. Articles about mental health and stigma, as well as information about upcoming events, are continuously updated on Tufts’ Active Minds Facebook page. The group encourages Jumbos to aid its efforts in creating a secure, supportive community, for the more that people recognize the importance of mental health, the less stigma there will be.