Marcy Gilstad from Active Minds at Alma College says:
"I heard about Active Minds at a suicide prevention walk the summer of my freshman year and, over the course of the next year I realized I needed Active Minds and so did my campus. My uncle, who has hypomania, encountered some legal trouble and I found my surname with the terms ‘legally insane' in bold print on the front of our small town newspaper. It seemed like nobody understood his condition and nobody wanted to talk about it. My family didn't even want tell other people - as if being bipolar was a worse accusation than being a criminal. This is when I began to realize the scope of stigma, and decided to take action.
By the following Fall, Active Minds at Alma College was a recognized student organization with a budget and we are doing big things. Being a leader in this organization has allowed me to educate my campus community about the debilitating stigma of mental health issues and what resources are available to help those who are suffering. Being on a small campus tends to divide groups and many student organizations cater only to certain interests. However, Active Minds appeals to the commonalities of the entire student body as we all know someone affected by mental health issues and we all want to know how to help. As a Resident Assistant on campus, I can see the impact we are making - the counseling center is no longer invisible and the term depression is no longer taboo.
My favorite part of Active Minds has been developing the dynamics of our team. Comprised of 15 or so passionate students, each of us has a story that drives our commitment, ranging from suicide attempts to watching a friend deal with an eating disorder. It is so inspiring. At times it is challenging to try and make sure everyone is satisfied in their own needs without losing sight of the big picture, but we are finding a balance between the two and getting noticed for our work around campus. Our most talked about project has been our "Stall Street Journals" - a monthly publication we hang on the back of bathroom stalls. They have been able to educate students on a wide variety of issues, such as seasonal affective disorder and the importance of a positive body image. They get students talking, help our chapter with membership recruitment, and are doing a small part to alleviate stigma. My next challenge is to make sure our group is sustainable as our founding members graduate.
It is exhilarating to know that I have not only improved the lives of my classmates but that the project I started will impact students for years to come. Stigma may have left its mark on me, but now I'm leaving my mark on my campus."