Robyn Suchy – Active Minds Blog Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:09:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Cat, the Lifesaver Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:00:31 +0000 IMG_1080 (1) I’m only a little embarrassed to say that I think my cat may have been partially responsible for saving my life.

I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder for a long time–almost ten years now that I look back on it–but I’ve always been able to find my way back with some time, effort, and a lot of therapy. But last summer I fell into a depressive episode that was deeper, longer, and more debilitating than anything I’d ever experienced

For the first time my mood wasn’t the only thing affected by my mental illness. My body hurt, all the time, constantly. I was either sleeping for 14 hours a day or less than four. I’d go two weeks eating almost nothing and another two weeks eating almost anything. I could barely move but worse than any of that, I could barely think.

I’ve always felt smart, and I’ve liked using my brain. My job demands that as my primary function, but suddenly I found myself floundering. I was forgetting common words; losing them halfway through a sentence I’d already started. I developed a stutter and couldn’t think through tasks or projects, immediately overwhelmed by everything. I would write emails with the same care and attention that I normally would but people would write back saying I wasn’t making sense, that the sentences didn’t mean anything when put together.

I’d fallen into old habits of self-harm, and I was struggling with constant thoughts of suicide. And if I managed to drag myself into work on any given day, I’d be faced with coming home utterly exhausted to a lonely apartment in a new city, far from my friends and family.

I did a decent job keeping up the façade of being depressed but functioning…or at least that’s the only explanation that I can think of for why my friends decided it was time to redouble their push for me to adopt a cat.

I’d wanted a pet for as long as I could remember but it was not in the cards for me as a child. So, when I moved out on my own it was a top priority after getting settled. A dog probably couldn’t deal with my life as an individual who worked full time and sometimes took weekend trips to friend’s houses, so I settled on wanting a playful cat.

My plans got derailed when it felt like I could barely take care of myself but my friends were persistently sending me the posting of the local shelter and, against my better judgement at the time, I fell in love with one based just on the description and picture. She was a small, four-year-old black cat who had been at the shelter for almost seven months after being found on the streets, abused by her last family.

She had a broken tail that healed so the tip pointed in the wrong direction. She was apparently overwhelmed in the cat room of the shelter, so she spent her days in the office of one of the dog trainers but never got too close.

She loved to play and hunt but it took her a while to warm up to people. Her personality actually sounded exactly like me and after a half hour of meeting her and playing she was purring and rubbing against my legs and arms. The shelter staff said they’d never seen her warm up to someone so fast.

So I took Luna home. I gave her a warm bed (even though she prefers mine), and her own food with too many treats sprinkled in (she also prefers mine), and lots and lots of toys (she prefers my shoelaces).

On nights when I felt depressed and suicidal and like the minutes were dragging until the sun would rise so I could start my zombie-like day yet again, she would snuggle close and purr.  I would tell her that I knew she’d had a hard life, but she was safe now; that I wasn’t going to leave her alone again.

I got worse before I got better, but Luna and her big, yellow eyes kept me company when I couldn’t sleep. She forced me to get out of bed to feed her and, while I was up, she convinced me to run around my apartment and play. And when I needed to go out to get more cat food for her it also made sense to pick up some fresh fruit and some human food from the grocery store. Cat litter and hair gets everywhere so I actually needed to start cleaning my apartment again and needed to do the dishes to avoid suspicious lick marks on my plates the next morning.

My cat certainly isn’t the reason that my depression finally abated (I have lots and lots of therapy and medication tweaking and family and friends to thank for that), but I do give her some credit. I actually don’t think I’m embarrassed to say that my cat may have played a part in saving my life because, even when I couldn’t convince myself of my worth and that my life was worth living, she was able to just by being excited for me to be home and coming running when I opened her food.

I just wish she could even remotely understand what her companionship has meant to me, but maybe I’ll just buy her some more toys in the meantime.

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May Chapter of the Month: University of Pennsylvania Tue, 31 May 2016 12:41:30 +0000 url

Congratulations to the chapter of the month, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania. Active Minds’ founding chapter has done an impeccable job at raising funds and awareness for mental health this year!

At the beginning of this semester, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania held an event called ‘Push Against Stigma’. Students recruited sponsors to participate in a push-up contest to raise money and promote conversation about mental health. This chapter awarded gift cards to the winners of the three different categories: most push-ups, most sponsors, and most money raised. The Krispy Kreme fundraiser allowed Penn students to have something that most college students want-pre-ordered food. A portion of the proceeds went to Active Minds.

Separately, the chapter also hosted a Krispy Kreme fundraiser to provide students with that they want most: pre-ordered food! The chapter donated a portion of the proceeds to Active Minds, Inc. All told, the chapter has raised $1,000 so far for Active Minds, Inc. and mental health awareness!

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The chapter has made even further strides in engaging their peers in mental health dialogue through several creative programs.

On April 9, the chapter held a performance-based event, called INSPIRE. This event was able to engage different people to talk about their mental health issues/struggles in an inspiring manner. Performances ranged from solo performances to oncampus acapella teams.



This year, Active Minds also hosted a wonderful campaign called Fearless Friday in observance of National Eating Disorder Week. During Fearless Friday, students were asked to share what they like about themselves and partake in cookies. Can’t get too much better than self-love and cookies!


Finally, in collaboration with RAPline, uPenn’s helpline, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania published their first literary magazine to educate the audience with useful tips about communicating/listening to others. The print literary magazine, Penntal Health, included student’s artwork and their personal stories. Active Minds members were inspired to create this literary magazine due to their immense success with Pennsive, their tumblr that is dedicated to sharing stories and motivational messages to their audience.

What a cool way to expand your network!

Thank you so much for the incredible work you are doing, Active Minds at the University of Pennsylvania!

Chapter of the Month: University of Portland Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:39:50 +0000 UP AMWe are happy to announce our wonderful chapter of the month, Active Minds at the University of Portland! The University of Portland has created many new initiatives to reduce the stigma around mental health and, most impressively, has not even celebrated their one year anniversary yet.

UP AM3Active Minds at the University of Portland had a unique start. The chapter co-president, Jesse Dunn, stood up to the administration at the university and demanded that there be more conversation about the mental health in light of his friend’s suicide. Dunn, among others, was extremely disappointed by the portrayal of the death as anything but a suicide.

The university’s lack of mental health discussion led Dunn to feel like the university was further contributing to the mental health stigma. Therefore, he decided to start an Active Minds chapter with friends to raise awareness about mental health issues and to provide a platform for further discussion. This year, Dunn was a recipient of the University of Michigan’s Student Mental Health Advocate Award. This award is given to those who demonstrate exceptional mental health awareness/advocacy at their universities.

“I met so many phenomenal, passionate people, and I learned quite a bit about depression and other mental health issues on college campuses. Receiving the award and getting to give a speech at the luncheon was a spectacular moment. It allowed me for one of the first times to really reflect on the work that Logan and I have done over the last year. It’s all stuff that we are intrinsically motivated to do, but it undeniably has been a lot of energy” Dunn said.

But the awards don’t stop there. Co-presidents Logan Crabtree as well as Dunn have received the Rev. John Van Wolvlear, CSC, Student Affairs Award. These awards further highlight the tremendous impact Active Minds has had at the University of Portland thus far.

After a successful editorial that launched Active Minds at the University of Portland onto center stage the chapter began to collaborate with the student newspaper to write a weekly “Let’s Talk” column to share stories and encourage others to seek help. Additionally, the chapter is has podcast interviews with the members that shared their stories.

The chapter has held many events this year but two stand out as unique: “Affirmation Grams” and a “Battle of the Bands Event”. Students were able to purchase a $1 “Affirmation Gram” to have a nice note get delivered to their friends to brighten their day.


The Battle of the Bands was a creative Active Minds fundraiser scheduled for April 1st, where anyone could compete–even with air guitars! Winners were awarded prizes and food/raffles were provided for all. Rock on!

We can’t wait to see more of the amazing work Active Minds at the University of Portland will do!

January Chapter of the Month: Active Minds at UCLA Fri, 29 Jan 2016 17:41:24 +0000 11999046_1061565100521832_7075910831010947224_nThis month we highlight the stunning work of Active Minds at UCLA.  This chapter is one of just six celebrating ten years as a member of the Active Minds chapter network and have shown why they remain strong time and time again. They serve as a model for other chapters in our network and we’re happy to share just a few of the reasons that Active Mind at UCLA is making huge strides in campus mental health work:

 Featured on Buzzfeed:

Did you know that Buzzfeed recently had a Mental Health Week where they featured articles, videos, and stories about what it’s like to live with a mental illness? The Active Minds chapter at UCLA got some serious recognition for the video they created demonstrating What It’s Like to Hear “Just Get Better.” Check it out:

  1. Leading the way:


The chapter’s leadership team is unstoppable. Active Minds at UCLA has over 100 members in what they lovingly refer to as their “army of stigmafighters.” That can be a lot to manage, but the leadership team has it on lock. They organize by committees for Events, Workshops, and Education and shift priorities to adapt to the needs of the UCLA community as a whole. The committees are able to conquer challenges, respond to different communities, and keep the chapter running smoothly and efficiently.

  1. Programming with a purpose:


Active Minds at UCLA has literally dozens of programs that deserve their own featured place from Dueling with Dementors to their Mental Health Awareness Fair but one of our favorites is their Self Care Kits. When the chapter started this program the kits were intended to be stress less packs but decided to focus on self care and more holistic practices of wellness rather than just stress reduction. The hoped to encourage students to learn their own best self care practices by assembling kits with donated materials such as  cashew butter, water bottles, journals, bubbles, sleep masks, candles, small stuffed animals, marbles, crayons, play-doh and more.


  1. Fundraising prowess:


Winning the 2013-2014 Active Minds Fundraising Innovation Award wasn’t the peak for this team. The chapter continues to make big strides with the program they have continued to adapt and grow, the iSupport Bracelet Campaign. This campaign features handmade friendship bracelets that the chapter created to show love and support and to help build awareness for different mental health conditions. Each color was tied to a specific mental illness and each bracelet came with an information card so people could continue to learn more. They’ve upgraded their infrastructure, they’re reaching out to new markets, and they’re growing something that they know works. Active Minds at UCLA continues to raise over $1,000 a year with this method and has even helped create a guide to doing this program so other chapters can follow suit. Check it out!

Congratulations, Active Minds at UCLA, we continue to be impressed and inspired by your work and can’t wait to see what’s next this semester!

Mental Health Monologues at Winona State University Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:45:41 +0000 MHM 2015Active Minds at Winona State University recently won Active Minds’ Programming Innovation Award for their mental health story-sharing program, the Mental Health Monologues (check out their videos)! Based on the highly popular Vagina Monologues, students, faculty, and staff (some as actors and others as authors of the stories) brought mental health struggles to life by reading personal experiences with mental illness  in a theatrical setting.

The overall goal of this program was to “erase the stigma surrounding mental health and show that there is hope of treatment and recovery for mental illness.” They hoped that this emotionally-charged public presentation of personal stories would reveal the ways in which mental illness affects different people, whether they are personally struggling or supporting a loved one.

The chapter began planning seven months in advance and started by putting out a call for stories from students, staff, and faculty through their Facebook page, flyers around campus, and a campus-wide email. They set up an email account specifically for the purpose of soliciting stories which only two chapter members had access to in order to insure anonymity.  As they compiled  the stories, they also began pursuing directors and actors.

As theater rehearsals commenced, the organizing continued. The chapter booked a space, ordered T-shirts, designed the program, and planned concessions, They also started advertising the event by hanging  creative posters around campus, connecting with campus news outlets, sending emails, and posting on Facebook.

To put on such a large-scale event, they also needed to secure funding. They decided to request  funding from the Student Senate and Counseling Services rather than charging an admission fee.. They accepted donations at the door and at an Active Minds table to benefit the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center.

The event was highly successful. With three shows in April 2015, the Mental Health Monologues attracted over 200 people from campus and beyond. Feedback from the campus community was overwhelmingly great; students connected to the stories and were inspired to tell their own stories. They group was  even asked to perform the monologues again at Hiawatha Valley Mental Health events.

The chapter was very conscious of the sensitive nature of some of the stories presented and took steps to insure that audience members were not triggered by attending the event. In the story selection process they worked with the authors to edit sections that could have been triggering and had information for the counseling center listed on the programs at the event, announced before and after the event, and at their table outside in the reception area. They also announced in the beginning and throughout the event that people were encouraged to leave the room if they needed.

Overall, this performance gave the chapter at Winona State University the opportunity to make new connections with on- and off-campus groups, spread the power of stories, and inspired others to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. This is a great program to bring to any campus to creatively share stories around mental health while building relationships across campus and potentially raising money for a great cause!

For more information about this program, check it out here!


November Chapter of the Month: Active Minds at Stockton University Fri, 04 Dec 2015 13:21:26 +0000 Stockton AMThis month we’re excited to highlight the amazing work of Active Minds at Stockton University, the 2013-2014 Active Minds Chapter of the Year, for their amazing campus mental health work including their innovative program, Proactive Minds. Read on for some of the top reasons that Active Minds at Stockton University is excelling in changing the conversation about mental health!

A Thriving Leadership Team Spreading the Word

Stockton PicActive Minds at Stockton University has a thriving executive board made up of eight members from multiple academic years and has increased their general membership to nearly thirty members. They work very closely with their passionate advisor, Nathan Morell, and the Wellness and Counseling Center to recruit new members and hold relevant, large-scale events. Under their leadership, the chapter has reached more than 650 people through fundraising walks, art shows, and panel discussions. Plus, they already have a list of more than 75 volunteers who want to help out at their events this year!

Transformative Change

Stockton 3Active Minds at Stockton saw a disconnect around the way students get information about their Wellness Center and the use of their services so they sought to fill the gap. They began printing and distributing small stickers with the counseling center call line and asking students to place the stickers on a blank spot on their student ID cards. Due in part to these and the chapter’s other efforts, counseling visits to the Wellness Center have increased in the past year.

The chapter has also worked to engage groups that might not otherwise receive mental health information and have had thriving partnerships with their honors program, Greek life, student athletes, student veterans, and the LGBTQ Pride Alliance. In addition to their work on campus, they have expanded and worked with their county on mental health training and education and even donated over $500 to purchase recreational equipment for a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

Innovative Programming: Proactive Minds

Stockton 2The chapter recently created  a program called Proactive Minds to prepare high school students for the emotional and mental changes associated with transitioning to college and help them recognize how important it is to take care of themselves. Through presentations to high school students, chapter members  share their personal stories about transitioning to college and their advisor provides the research and education  about the emotional processes involved, the warning signs for each major type of mental illness, self-care suggestions, and campus resources.

Through this chapter’s efforts, not only is their campus a more conducive environment for talking about mental health openly and seeking help, but even future students are launching into the next chapter of their lives more equipped to have conversations about their and other’s mental health. Keep up the great work, Active Minds at Stockton University!


5 Reasons to Apply to Present at Conference Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:02:55 +0000 Call for Apps6

The Active Minds National Mental Health on Campus Conference is coming up soon and we hope you’re getting excited (we sure are!) We pack conference full of time for you to hear from fellow chapter members through our Creative Programming Expo, and in sessions, workshops, roundtables, and panel discussions and we want you to be one of those presenters this year. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

1. Free Registration if you Present a Workshop or on a Panel

You read that right. If you’re chosen to present a workshop or on a panel you (and up to one co-presenter from your chapter) can get free registration. Don’t get us wrong, there’s some work involved before conference if your application is selected but we’ll cover your registration.

2. Share your Creativity with Hundreds at the Creative Programming Expo

Do you ever see some of the cool programs we highlight on the Chapter Network Facebook Page or on our blog and wonder how those chapters got such good ideas? In a lot of cases, they adapted a program they saw at our Creative Programming Expo. The Programming Expo is one of the only times at conference that every single person who is registered has unstructured time to talk exclusively about the amazing things they are doing on campus.

It’s got everything: creative fundraisers, innovative twists on our national programs, representatives from partner organization and the Active Minds national office to answer questions, and so much more! Share what you’re doing well with hundreds of people and see your program spread to other chapters across the country!

3. Rep it on Your Resume

If you’re getting close to graduating you might be thinking about your resume or CV or LinkedIn profile. Presenting at a national conference is a huge achievement to add to yours! You’re going to show potential employers or graduate school representatives that you not only did something worth talking about to hundreds of people but you also took the time to craft a proposal that stood out, thought through how and what to share with your session so it could have the most impact, and you stood up in a room about it in front of your peers!

4. Get Some Support from Your School

Are you requesting funds from your school to come to conference this year? Strengthen that application by saying that you applied (and are hopefully chosen to) present. Show your administrators not only that you’re serious about attending this conference and learning as much as you can there but that you’re also going to elevate your school’s name by representing all that they are doing to help your chapter build a healthier campus community.

5. You’re in Charge

This conference is for chapter members and the most valuable thing we, as the staff at the national office, are able to do is let you lead the sessions. You are the experts of what works and doesn’t work on your campuses and your peers want to hear from you. They want to hear from folks who struggle with the same things they do or who go to schools like theirs or who are looking to achieve the same kinds of things they are.

Have we convinced you to apply yet? Learn more about the kinds of sessions we’re looking for and fill out an application. Questions? Email

Summer Inventory Deadline Extended: Due June 25! Mon, 22 Jun 2015 12:57:11 +0000 Inventory Deadline ExtendedYou finished the school year, you held your last chapter meetings, you celebrated, maybe you already hit the beach — but there is one more thing you need to do before officially being done with this year: Fill out your chapter’s Summer Inventory! We know, sometimes we can sound like a broken record sending you all of those reminders but this summer inventory is, in a lot of ways, the most important one of the year. Here’s why:

  1. Get your Active Minds swag in the fall!

We need the address of where to send that big box of Active Minds materials each fall. Free buttons, stickers, pamphlets, information about new Active Minds programming, and many of the materials you’ll need to run your awareness campaigns will come in this box. It’s like Christmas in September!

  1. Send in your new leader’s contact information.

You have the chance to fill out the contact information of your leadership in every inventory but the majority of chapters have elections at the end of the spring semester. We want to make sure we can be in touch with your most accurate chapter leadership about opportunities and reminders and this is the time to tell us!

  1. Ratings are coming.

June 30 ends our year at Active Minds and that means that we can begin evaluating chapters and assigning annual ratings. If you’re fulfilling all of the requirements to become a 5-star chapter, you need to tell us about it in your inventories so we can give you credit for your programs, meetings, partnerships, fundraising, and more.

  1. Plan your 2015-2016 academic year.

We’ve already established that you’re on the beach somewhere and you’re probably not trying to think about school a whole lot right now but filling out your inventory will help you establish goals for next year. Filling out your inventory helps you reflect on what you’ve done this semester and year and can help you figure out where you want to try growing in the fall. Want to expand your social media reach? Create a better leadership transition plan? Hold more creative programs? Expand your Stress Less Week? Not sure? Filling out your inventory will help.

  1. Help us celebrate all that you’ve done this year!

We wish we could talk to all 400+ chapters all the time and be at your programs and come to your meetings and see all of the amazing things you’re doing but we’re only a 13 person staff and we count on these inventories to help us keep up to date on the inspiring, innovative, creative things you do. So you go ahead and brag on your inventory and let us celebrate all that you’ve done this year!

You have until Thursday, June 25th at Midnight, EST. Fill out your Summer Inventory! Email if you have any questions.

5 Reasons to Host A Member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau ASAP! Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:28:23 +0000 group picture with borderThe Active Minds Speakers Bureau is a group of remarkable young people who have struggled with mental illness and
bravely share their stories on campuses around the country to help end the stigma around mental health.

We have speakers with a multitude of unique experiences and perspectives. You can read their profiles here but keep reading to see the top five reasons you should host a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau!

  1. A Fresh Face, A Compelling Story

 you dont say rage face nic cage meme

Bringing one of the members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau is not only bringing a fresh face to campus to talk about mental health, but it also means that you are bringing someone who is trained to share their compelling story and start a lasting dialogue on your campus.

2. It’s More Than Just a Lecture

Though the members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau love to share their stories in a traditional, lecture style presentation, they also present in more unique and hands-on ways — including hosting a creative writing workshop, holding a yoga, reiki, or meditation class, and pairing their presentation with musical performances or poetry readings.

3. Collaboration Success

Team high five gif

Many chapters have found success collaborating with other campus groups when bringing a speaker to help advertise, fundraise, and get a large audience out for the event.

For example, Active Minds at SUNY Old Westbury raised funds to host speaker Jordan Burnham on campus through new collaborations with SGA, athletics, student health, residential life, Men in Progress, and the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement.

To show their appreciation to fellow collaborators, they invited them to a special dinner before the speaking engagement. The campus raved about Jordan’s presentation and his words brought attention to mental health, particularly among student athletes.

4. Programming Credit!

cat meme credits

When hosting a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, chapters are eligible for programming credit that will go towards their fundraising requirement. Not only will you and your campus get the benefits of hearing an amazing speaker but your chapter will make a dent in their fundraising efforts in the process!

5. Add Some More #StigmaFighters to Your Roster

baby meme

Once the speaker finishes, it doesn’t mean the dialogue on mental health is over!  Use this opportunity to earn some publicity in the campus paper and increase membership with a sign up list at the event. Many chapters find that having a large scale event like bringing a speaker is a major boost to their chapter’s notoriety and membership. With the new #Stigmafighters, your chapter can do even bigger and better things!

Are you ready to bring a speaker to your campus? Check out our website for more information and send us an interest form.

Are you registered for the National Conference yet? At conference you’ll have an opportunity to hear from and meet our speakers, learn how to host an effective speakers bureau event from some chapters, and meet staff from the National Office can answer your questions and help you start the booking process.

Suicide Prevention Month: Finding Meaning Through Advocacy Tue, 03 Sep 2013 15:53:25 +0000 Robyn Suchy is the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee President and a student at Cabrini College (PA), explains why she is a mental health advocate.

I never intended to become a mental health advocate. I got involved in Active Minds during my freshmen year of college in an attempt to find some kind of peace. I struggled with my mental health through high school and desperately wanted a fresh start in college. I wanted to do all the things that college students were supposed to do; make friends, do well in classes, and get a job, but on top of all that I wanted to

get a handle on my own mental health and the shame that I felt for struggling in the first place. Just talking about mental health with my peers helped me more than I could ever imagine and sharing my struggles became a liberating experience but I could never forget about all the time I spent hiding. 

Mental health advocacy was not something I planned to actively pursue when I came to college but I can’t imagine my life any other way now. Of all the important causes that deserve support I believe that mental health is the most misunderstood, underfunded, and least talked about despite it’s pressing importance. My endeavors into mental health advocacy began as a personal way of working through struggles that I felt I had to trudge through in silence but it turned into so much more than that. I am a mental health advocate for many reasons but, ultimately, I want to make sure that no one else has to suffer the shame and silence that ends up hurting us all.

Are you in crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) now.