Illinois Tech’s chapter of Active Minds met for its first general body meeting (GBM) on the evening of Monday, October 29. The organization is led by Mehak Hafeez and Charmayne Duerson, who are both master’s students in mental health and rehabilitation counseling.
Active Minds is an organization that aims to help youth nationwide learn more about mental health advocacy and suicide prevention. The organization has 600 chapters across the United States, with 450 of them being student-led. The founder of Active Minds, Alison Malmon, did so when she was an undergraduate student, in honor of her brother who committed suicide. Malmon realized just how important it was to initiate healthy conversation about mental health in order to combat stigma, and she created this organization to change the way mental health is approached across the country.
Hafeez, the president of Illinois Tech’s chapter of Active Minds, explained that she first got interested in reducing mental health stigma for both personal reasons and the social justice components. “You really don’t see stuff like this at IIT,” she said. “Many people are not educated enough on this subject.” Because there is widespread ignorance on the topic of mental health on this campus, being a part of Illinois Tech’s chapter of Active Minds was very important to her.
Duerson, the treasurer of Illinois Tech’s chapter of Active Minds, believed that there were many ways in which Illinois Tech could do better in giving students resources to help their mental health. She believed that with the large population of international and graduate students, students experience a lot of stress here, but it isn’t often talked about. “We just deal with the pressure and go,” she said. Duerson hoped that this chapter of Active Minds could do things on campus to change that.
Hafeez and Duerson then spoke about the chapter’s upcoming events. On November 15, Active Minds will host a “Friendsgiving Celebration” from 5 to 8 p.m., co-hosted with the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA). They described their vision of the event as an evening of food, fun, and fellowship. “A lot of us are housed in our majors and don’t really know other professors or students on campus,” Hafeez explained. Because of this, this event was created to be a chance to network from different people from different departments.
Active Minds is also planning a “stress less week” to occur just before final’s week on November 26 to 30. The group will be walking around campus to pass out buttons, informative flyers, etc. to spread the word about Active Minds on campus and also educate students about healthy ways to deal with stress as finals approaches.
The organization’s next GBM is scheduled to occur on November 28 from 5 to 6 p.m. in Tech Central conference room 237. At this meeting, the executive board plans to give more details about the Active Minds conference that will occur on March 22 to 23 in Washington D.C., to which they hope to send students from their chapter.
Another thing on the horizon for Active Minds is a mental health first aid course occurring on December 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Although the course regularly costs $65, with Student Activity Fee (SAF) funding, students will only need to pay $9 to attend. The course will certify individuals in mental health first aid, equipping them with the knowledge to identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. The course is held at 1116 N Kedzie in Chicago, and students are responsible for their own transportation to the event. Ticket sales will begin November 5 and will end November 15. Interested students should contact [email protected].
Additionally, Active Minds is planning to host a “lunch and learn” series, hosting different speakers every month, addressing topics such as domestic violence, disability inclusion, and mental health stigma.
Lastly, the group mentioned that they’d like to organize a social event in the spring as well, and will be sending out a poll to general body members to determine what kind of event. Duerson suggested an outing to a museum or to see a play.
Membership to the national chapter of Active Minds is free, Hafeez and Duerson explained, and with a national membership students gain access to a wealth of information and opportunities. In particular, the “Emerging Scholars” award, to which the application opens in mid-November, funds six months of independent research, from January to June. Students applying for this award do not have to be psychology majors or in the field at all. In the past, one recipient of this award created a mental health coloring book, was able to publish and print it, and sells them online today.
If you are interested in getting involved with this organization, students are encouraged to reach out to Hafeez at [email protected], or attend Active Minds’ next GBM on November 28 from 5 to 6 p.m. in Tech Central conference room 237.
Photo by Estlin Mendez (They/them)