How I Incorporated V-A-R® at Auburn University

Taylor Jean Annerino
Taylor Jean Annerino

As I finish up my senior year at Auburn University, I think about how the conversation about mental health has drastically changed over my four years on campus. Especially on how to show up for friends or for someone who may be struggling. Being an Active Minds chapter leader, I’ve received countless emails from other campus organizations at Auburn asking to visit our chapter to talk about mental health. I kept finding that people want to know how to help one another, how to start everyday conversations around mental health, and learn ways to be there for their friends, but simply don’t know how to approach the subject.

That’s where Active Minds’ V-A-R®, or Validate, Appreciate, Refer, method comes in handy! V-A-R is an everyday tool for having everyday conversations on mental health. It has been an incredible addition to our Active Minds chapter and our university, and has made talking about mental health so easy and relatable for students by breaking it down into three simple steps and giving tips and conversation starters that anyone can use. Since being introduced to V-A-R, our chapter has hosted a training each semester for our chapter members, created our own training PowerPoint and survey, and added V-A-R to the list of training offered by the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. 

So far, we have trained hundreds of students and faculty members ranging from athletes, Greek organizations, professional schools, and more! This fall, the Auburn Athletics Department, which represents over 570 student-athletes, even hosted my Active Minds chapter to introduce V-A-R to the staff and student-athletes to foster an open and honest conversation about mental health. Through V-A-R, they were introduced to ways that they can have everyday conversations about mental health.

Being there for someone who may be struggling can be life-changing, and having the proper tools to support them can be life-saving. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to help. You just need to be there. V-A-R is a powerful tool that helps bridge the gap between showing up and stepping up. 

Thanks to the generous support of Kendra Scott, Active Minds now offers three ways to promote V-A-R in your community with their new and improved V-A-R® toolkit! If your chapter doesn’t have a budget for training, check out the free DIY V-A-R toolkit. It includes access to the extended V-A-R animated video, the new toolkit, and sample presentation resources like slides and handouts. The possibilities and activities are endless! 

The other two options you can purchase are the V-A-R Workshop Kit and the V-A-R 90-Minute Training that offers full training or live presentations from an Active Minds’ Speaker or staff member. To learn more about each V-A-R package offerings, visit