News from Active Minds

Active Minds Announces Annual Award Winners

Active Minds Announces Annual Award Winners 

At this year’s National Mental Health on Campus Conference, Active Minds, Inc. presented awards to students and staff who are raising mental health awareness and decreasing stigma all across North America.

“Active Minds presents awards each year not only to acknowledge the triumphs of a handful of our chapters, but also to draw attention to areas where the organization places emphasis throughout the year,” said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, Inc.

The awards went to Active Minds chapters and students for their work in the 2008-2009 school year.

Active Minds chapters sometimes face tremendous adversity when trying to find their footing. The organization gives out a Roadrunner Award to a chapter that has established a strong presence on its campus in a short period of time. This year’s Roadrunner Award went to Active Minds at Muhlenberg College (PA) for how quickly and successfully they began programming and received media coverage for their activity on campus.

“Often times, one or two students with a fierce dedication for raising awareness about mental health strive to start a chapter on campus, and time and again they find a way to get it done,” said Naomi Karp, Active Minds, Inc.’s chapter coordinator for the Northeast. “It is a lesson for all of the interested students out there that it doesn’t take overwhelming numbers to start a chapter of Active Minds. It takes commitment. It takes perseverance. It takes passion. We’ve grown from one chapter to over 230 because of the creativity, innovation and strength of these students.”

Once a chapter is established, they are quickly encouraged by Active Minds, Inc. to find partners on campus who can help them spread the message of the organization. The goal is for a chapter to reach as wide an audience as possible as they strive to change the conversation about mental health. Active Minds at Our Lady of the Lake (TX) took home the Uniting Voices Award for their impressive partnership-building both on and off-campus.

“From campus police to the drama and theater department, from Residence Life to the counseling center, a local pizza chain to a Wal-Mart in the community, the chapter’s outreach was far-reaching and meaningful,” said Sonya Weisburd, Active Minds Inc.’s chapter coordinator for the Western United States.

Chapters individually and Active Minds as a whole recognize the importance of creative programming to reach the student audience. Students are as busy as ever and it takes resourceful and inventive efforts by Active Minds chapters to get their attention. With a wealth of exciting programs to choose from, Active Minds at McDaniel College (MD) was selected to receive this year’s Innovative Programming Award. Inspired by Frank Warren’s PostSecret project, Active Minds at McDaniel collected 200 secrets on a campus of about 3,500 students.

“What I find most impressive about their project is that they went beyond just giving students a space to disclose,” said Marc Peters, Active Minds, Inc’s chapter coordinator for the Southern United States. “They contextualized the secrets with a presentation that included how to seek help if and when they are in need. This innovative program showed students that they were not alone in their struggles and gave them examples of concrete actions they could take.”

The process of getting started, finding organizations to partner with and running innovative programs is eased when Active Minds chapters are aided by the presence of a compassionate and caring advisor. Advisors provide information, encourage responsibility, support creativity, help problem solve and challenge students to develop as leaders. People would be hard pressed to find someone who fit this bill better than Barry Schreier, of Active Minds at the University of Connecticut, who was named Advisor of the Year.

“As director of Counseling and Mental Health Services at the University of Connecticut, Barry was instrumental in developing UConn’s chapter of Active Minds,” Karp said. “He continues to support the chapter as they work with school administrators to make Active Minds a permanent fixture on campus.”

While Active Minds advisors can play a critical role in sustaining momentum, Active Minds’ chapters would not succeed without the energy and leadership of outstanding students. This year, Active Minds unveiled a new award, Student Leader of the Year, to recognize a student leader who went above and beyond in running their chapter and changing the conversation about mental health on their campus. The inaugural award went to Maryam Monsef, president of Active Minds at Trent University (Canada).

“Maryam exemplifies true student leadership,” Weisburd said. “The dedication she showed to her chapter is outstanding, but Maryam went beyond that and advocated for student mental health on her campus in a way that affected the whole university. She petitioned the university and almost won a student body vote to have a portion of student fees go to supporting Active Minds at Trent. In addition Maryam established Active Minds as a partner in the development of Student Health 101, an e-journal that circulates widely throughout the US and Canada.”

Active Minds, Inc. is an organization that relies heavily on a growing network of chapters. Chapter members are on the ground, spreading awareness and working hard to change the conversation about mental health on their campuses.

“All Active Minds chapters further this cause, but this year one stands out for their creativity, passion and effectiveness,” Malmon said.

The Active Minds Chapter of the Year award went to Active Minds at Oregon State. Their chapter accomplished a great deal in the 2008-2009 school year including: an impressive range of programming for National Stress Out Day, an educational campaign targeting the male population on campus, and working with a large spectrum of groups on and off campus. They also partnered with the Office of the Vice Provost and Student Affairs and the National Guard for an event on student veterans. The innovative campaign targeting male students included printing beautiful glossy posters listing “10 Tips to Boost Your Mental Performance.” The group has a strong student board consisting of several officers that hold regular planning meetings in order to accomplish the large amount of programming that Active Minds at Oregon State is able to offer the student body at their university.

“Whether it was their embracing of our National Stress Out Day as a way to reach their peers or their ability to find ways to target male students who might shy away from help-seeking, Oregon State serves as a model Active Minds chapter,” Malmon said. “They are always willing to help, whether it is their peers at other campuses in their region or across the country through sharing programming ideas with our national office. They embody the spirit of the movement we are building at Active Minds.”

Honorable mentions include:

  • Roadrunners: Active Minds at the College of St. Scholastica (MN) and Active Minds at James MadisonUniversity (VA)
  • Uniting Voices: Honorable mentions went to Active Minds at Montclair State University (NJ) and Active Minds at the University of Memphis (TN) for their great successes in collaborating with individuals, organizations and other university offices throughout the 2008-2009 school year.
  • Innovative Programming: Active Minds at Grinnell (IA) won an honorable mention for their innovative program: Starting the Conversation, a publication of student writing, poetry and prose addressing mental health issues.

About Active Minds, Inc.: Active Minds is the leading voice in college student mental health. On over 235 campuses, with thousands of student leaders and advocates working diligently to raise awareness and promote mental health, Active Minds is reaching students through the implementation of programming that decreases stigma, brings about awareness, and ultimately creates a positive and accepting environment for the discussion of mental health issues.