start a chapter FAQ

chapter basics

Chapter basics

Student-led chapters work to increase mental health awareness on campus, raise funds for critical mental health education and resources through the Active Minds national office, promote positive mental health, educate their peers about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and encourage students to reach out for help when needed. Chapters play an important role in referring students to resources and starting conversations about this important topic.

Like most student organizations, Active Minds chapters hold regular meetings to plan events, programs, and initiatives on their campus. These events range from programs available from the national office to any number of innovative initiatives a chapter comes up with. Some activities include tabling, speaker presentations, discussion panels, movie screenings, stress relief activities, art and music events, depression screenings, and social events.

No. Active Minds chapters may not be support groups and do not provide mental health services of any kind. While we recognize the immense value of peer support, the mission of Active Minds chapters is to raise awareness, educate, and de-stigmatize help-seeking.

All Active Minds chapters require an advisor who must be an employee of the school; must be a registered student organization on their campus; and have at least three student leaders. At least one student leader must be an underclassman to ensure the sustainability of the chapter beyond the first year. If you’re interested in learning more about starting a chapter, complete the Start a Chapter interest form.

No. We require all of our chapters to be an independent, registered student organization through student government, student activities, or equivalent office on campus. We want our chapters to enjoy the benefits of student group status as well as give our student leaders independent authority to make decisions on programming.

Secondly, much of our challenge is bringing mental health issues “out of the counseling center” so as to make them more accessible to the general student population, while still collaborating with counseling centers and health services to provide students with the resources that they need. By functioning as an independent student organization, a chapter can more easily make mental health relevant to all students.

Re-activating an inactive chapter looks exactly the same as starting a new chapter. There may be a faculty or staff member who was involved with the chapter in the past who would be willing to help you out and give you a head start. Also, depending on your school’s student organization policy and how long ago the chapter was active, you may not have to go through the process of re-registering on campus. Contact us for more information on the history of the chapter at your school.

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who can start chapters?

Who can start chapters

Yes! High schools can register chapters through the same process as a college and are expected to meet the same requirements as a college-based chapter. High school-based chapters are most successful when they have strong administrative and staff support.

No, chapters cannot be formed outside of the context of a school. If you are not affiliated with a school, we encourage you to check out our Take Action page for other ways to get involved with Active Minds.

Faculty or staff members can play an integral role in the development of an Active Minds chapter. You might consider, for example, serving as the faculty or staff advisor to the chapter. Whether or not you become the advisor, you can start by reaching out to students you know who may be interested and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Facilitate an initial interest meeting to get students involved in the process of starting the chapter, and help interested students navigate the school’s process for starting a student organization.

If you’re about to graduate, tell your friends who are still in school about Active Minds and starting a chapter. You can help interested students with the initial steps of finding an advisor, recruiting students, and figuring out how to register as a new student organization. Even though you won’t be around to see it all take shape, you’ll have left an important legacy on your campus.

We are not currently registering any new chapters outside of the United States and Canada. However, we have a great international affiliate program to which we would be happy to connect you. Please contact us and ask about becoming an international affiliate to learn more and get connected.

Yes! As long as your chapter is able to abide by all of our rules, regulations, and policies, including the chapter fundraising requirement, all institutions of higher education in North America can start chapters of Active Minds.

No. In fact, some of our chapters at religiously affiliated schools have successfully incorporated their faith into the mental health programming they do on campus. Active Minds at Yeshiva University held a panel on religious scrupulosity and Active Minds at Messiah College sponsors alternate chapels to those students are required to attend.

No. Inclusivity is a core value of Active Minds chapters, which are open to all students on a campus. You do not have to have a mental illness to get involved with Active Minds. You just have to care about this issue and want to make a difference on your campus.

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things to consider before starting a chapter

Things to consider

If there’s already a mental health education and awareness student group at your school, we encourage you to attend a meeting and find out more about their goals and activities. The ideal environment for starting a chapter is one in which multiple mental health student organizations can collaborate and complement each others’ efforts rather than duplicate efforts or compete for resources. You can also let the group members know that they could transition to an Active Minds chapter along with you if they so desire. For all of our chapters, we require that a Chapter Agreement be signed, which includes the requirements of being an Active Minds chapter.  We do require any organization that transitions into an Active Minds chapter to use the Active Minds name.

If, once you learn more, you feel that Active Minds would offer something unique to your campus or the group is interested in becoming an Active Minds chapter itself, complete the Start a Chapter interest form.

It typically ranges from one to eight months to get a chapter up and running. Because Active Minds chapters are required to register as student organizations, the timeline is somewhat dictated by how long that process takes at your school. The other major factor is the amount of time required to recruit student leaders. If you already have a core group of students interested in getting the chapter started, this will greatly expedite the process.

Leading an Active Minds chapter is a moderate time commitment that will likely require a few hours each week for planning and meetings, with more time dedicated around large events or initiatives. One of the most important things to focus on in the early stages of starting a chapter is recruiting a dedicated student leadership board that can share the responsibilities of the chapter. We ask that chapters meet at least three times and hold at least one event or program each term. It’s important to remember that you can determine how much of a time commitment running a chapter becomes by setting realistic goals and expectations and delegating tasks among all leaders

Three student leaders are required to register as a chapter of Active Minds, at least one of whom cannot be graduating within that school year.

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money and funding

Money and funding

There are no dues associated with starting a chapter, but all Active Minds chapters are required to fundraise for the Active Minds national movement. See the Chapter Fundraising page for more information. We have a slew of resources and best practices to help students achieve this fundraising goal along with robust software to support fundraising efforts.

Chapters’ yearly budgets range from $0-$5,000+ with most falling somewhere between $100 and $600. Start by setting goals for the semester or year ahead and calculating the cost associated with each to estimate how much money will be necessary to accomplish your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and know that quite often a funding source will not award the full amount requested.

A chapter can apply for and receive funding through our Chapter Development Grant, which awards up to $250 per chapter a year.

Chapters are usually able to acquire funds through their school’s budgeting and allocations process for student organizations. The process varies campus to campus, but typically involves a chapter submitting a proposal or budget to the student government association, which then decides to award some or all of the requested funds. Chapters also engage in fundraising efforts to support their work on campus such as asking for in-kind donations from local businesses, holding bake sales, and including a donation jar at their events.

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getting started

Getting started

The first step is to complete our Start a Chapter interest form to let us know you’re interested in starting a chapter. Once your chapter has identified three student leaders and an advisor and has been officially recognized as a student group on campus, you may register as a chapter of Active Minds.

An advisor can be anyone officially employed as a faculty or staff member at your school. Good places to look for an Active Minds advisor include the psychology department, the campus counseling center, or the health/wellness center since these individuals already have a vested interest in this topic. If they can’t help, they may be able to refer you to someone who can. It may also be helpful to check in with your student activities or student life office for recommendations.

Mental health is not the easiest or most comfortable topic to discuss, but that’s exactly why the work you’re about to embark on is so critical. Consider hosting an initial interest meeting advertised through your campus-wide email list, flyers, social media, and word-of-mouth. Ask professors to offer extra credit to attend. You can also write an op-ed for your campus newspaper to break the ice and invite people to the meeting. Once you have students’ attention, talk about why this issue is relevant for college students, perhaps share why you personally want to get involved, and let students know that they have an opportunity to do something about this issue by joining Active Minds at your school

Choosing how to best introduce Active Minds to your campus really depends on the atmosphere at your school. An easy way to get started once you have registered as a chapter is to run an Active Minds program such as an awareness campaign or event. See the Our Programs page.

Another way to get things going is to have a celebratory kick-off event in a central location with food, games, and entertainment along with information about your new organization and educational mental health materials. Stress-relief activities that educate about anxiety disorders, stress management, and self-care are another great way to make the topic accessible and get students on your campus thinking about their mental health.

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role of the national office

Role of the national office

The Chapters Team works full time to support chapters around the country in their efforts. The Chapters Team can help with anything from recruiting new members and brainstorming program ideas to ensuring effective delegation and leadership transition. We highly value our relationship with our chapters and are happy to assist in any way that we can, so never hesitate to reach out to the Chapters Team for guidance, advice, or ideas by emailing us.

As a chapter of a national organization, you are entitled to support, resources, and benefits from us that are only available to Active Minds chapters. These include access to full-time staff dedicated to working with chapters across the country, exclusive opportunities to participate in Active Minds national programs, a package of chapter resources at the beginning of each school year, and eligibility to apply for the Chapter Development Grant. You’ll also enjoy engagement with the larger mental health community, connection with thousands of other like-minded students, leadership opportunities, and the backing of a nationally recognized organization.

Chapters are encouraged to adapt our programs and materials as necessary to best suit the needs of their particular campus and student body. However, we do have certain expectations of our chapters to maintain affiliation and good-standing with Active Minds. These include having your chapter’s activities align with the mission of Active Minds, maintaining a relationship with the Active Minds national office, using our name and logo, being a registered student organization on your campus, and forming a relationship with a faculty or staff advisor. We also expect that your chapter will be an open and welcoming group to all members of your campus community and that no one will be excluded from being involved.

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