Fighting For My Sister, Fighting For Me

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Elizabeth is a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee and a chapter leader at the University Alaska at Anchorage. Learn more about the Student Advisory Committee

EWilliams1 I joined Active Minds my first week of college. “Why?” my family and friends asked. “For my sister,” I always replied. “She has bipolar disorder.”

Shortly before I had begun college, my sister had survived a mental health crisis that landed her in the mental health unit of the local hospital. She stayed there for a week, and every time I talked to her on the phone I felt helpless. I had never even heard of bipolar disorder before she was diagnosed. I didn’t know how to encourage her. I didn’t know what to do to help and what not to do to make her symptoms worse. I was in over my head and I hated myself for not being able to interact with someone I loved so much.

I promised myself I would never feel so helpless again. I would educate myself about mental health so the next time a loved one became sick, I would know what to do. I would not sit by and watch next time. I would get in and fight for them.

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From the Speakers Bureau: What I Learned in the Yellow Jacket Nest

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meg blog pictureLast summer, while hiking with my sister and our three dogs, we stumbled into a nest of yellow jackets. They swarmed us, covering our bodies, stinging repeatedly as we hollered and fled down the mountain.

Safely back at the car, we shook the rest of them out of our pant legs. We loaded up on Benadryl. Everyone else seemed okay, but I felt like someone was stepping on my lungs. My mood dropped precipitously. I reassured my sister I was okay. I drove a few miles to our mom’s house.

My mom was getting ready to leave as I arrived. I lay down on the couch. “I’m fine,” I said. “I just need to lie down for a little while. You don’t need to stay.” I closed my eyes and waited. I felt like I might be dying but told myself that was ridiculous. Hadn’t I been stung often as a kid? I could handle this. I shouldn’t make anyone worry.

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Mental Health Monologues at Winona State University

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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.

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The White Balloon Could be Coming to Your Campus

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white balloonLooking for a creative way to start a conversation about mental health and engage a large population in your community or on your campus? Active Minds at Rochester Institute of Technology may have found one of the most creative ways yet to engage their campus, get the word out about their chapter, and educate their peers at the same time: they brought The White Balloon to their campus.

The goal of this program was to inform peers about the proportion of college students who live with mental illness in the United States. They accomplished this goal in three ways: balloons, mystery, and social media.

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My Life with Bipolar Disorder and Journey to Recovery

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sarahberendtSarah Berendt is currently studying social work at Lourdes University in Sylvania, OH. She is founder and president of Active Minds at Lourdes University and a member of the Student Advisory Committee.

It was the second time ever that I was sitting across from a therapist; I was lost, confused, and terrified. She handed me two fairly large packets of paper, the top of one said Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the other read Bipolar Disorder.

There were two possibilities, two mental illnesses, two definitions of what my life could mean. While reading the packet on Bipolar Disorder I began to cry: long periods of depression followed by periods of high energy, lack of control, racing thoughts, trouble concentrating and remembering, thinking of or attempting suicide — this piece of paper was describing my life.

A few months later, the diagnosis was confirmed by a psychiatrist and my journey had begun.

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Mental Health News Round Up: June 5

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Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers

A new report from Penn State reveals that anxiety is biggest concern for students seeking help at campus counseling centers. Counseling centers work to alleviate the pressures of the influx of students and provide innovative ways to encourage de-stressing.

Did John Nash’s schizophrenia boost his ‘beautiful mind’?

John Nash, the mathematician who rose to fame with the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” recently passed away with his wife in a car accident.  As people begin to investigate his legacy, a debate about mental health disorders and creativity emerges. 

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Borderline Personality Disorder

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May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month! Stacy Pershall, a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau who has a diagnosis of BPD, shares 5 things you should know about this oft-misunderstood disorder. Bring Stacy to your campus to speak today!
url 1. The disorder got its name from psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, when Freudian therapists observed that people with BPD “came apart on the couch” and theorized that they were on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. Now that we know more about psychology than we did in the 1960s (thank goodness), therapists have suggested renaming BPD something more accurate and with less stigma attached. Suggested names include “Emotion Dysregulation Disorder” and “Complex PTSD”, as people with the disorder have often experienced early trauma.

2. People with BPD are not intentionally manipulative, even when they do things like threaten suicide if you leave. They might know that such behavior is perceived as manipulative, but that doesn’t help a person with untreated BPD control the impulse to avoid abandonment in the moment. What you perceive as manipulation comes from fear, with anger as a secondary emotion. Continue Reading

Mental Health News Round-Up: May 8

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On a Brother’s Suicide: ‘I Wish I Had Never Told Him to Go to School’s Counseling Center’

A sister reflects on how William and Mary’s harsh mental health policies affected her brother’s mental state. She reflects on the difference between how a physical health and mental health problem and the “[trust that] the university at which you’ve chosen to study will support you in your path to adulthood and above all, protect you so that you reach adulthood.”

Yale University Eases Return Policies for Students who Withdraw for Mental Health Reasons

After a great deal of backlash over leave of absence policies that ultimately contributed to the kind of tragedy they intend to avoid, Yale is making comprehensive changes to better support student welfare. Some changes involve the requirement for students to take courses while they are away, the name “readmission,” and the length of time students have to decide about taking time off school.

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Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos: Fighting Stigma through Music

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michael-angelakosI’m just working with what I’ve been given

It’s not my fault, I’m happy

Don’t call me crazy, I’m happy

You’ve probably heard of the band Passion Pit. They’ve produced hit songs ‘Take a Walk,’ ‘Sleepyhead’ and ‘Carried Away.’ Their second album Gossamer, released in 2012, reached number one on Billboard’s Top Digital Albums chart. The band has performed at music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Firefly and Coachella.

What you may not know is that Passion Pit’s lead singer struggles every day with mental illness. Michael Angelakos was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. After two years of struggling with the disorder, he tried to take his life at the age of 19, while attending Boston’s Emerson College. After his attempt, Michael went on medication for his bipolar disorder.

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Program Bank Spotlight: iSupport Bracelet Campaign

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1962804_748149121863433_2142951318_nHave you heard about Active Minds at UCLA‘s iSupport Bracelet Campaign? Chapter members made and sold friendship bracelets to show love, support and awareness of mental health conditions.

Each bracelet is created with special colors to bring awareness to a different mental health conditions. Students can request and receive a custom-made bracelet supporting a specific condition (or multiple conditions). For example, for students requesting bracelets in support of substance abuse awareness, the chapter members create a bracelet primarily in the color red, the official color for substance abuse awareness.

By selling these bracelets on campus, Active Minds at UCLA is educating its community about mental health and raising funds at the same time — surpassing its fundraising goal of $1,000. Continue Reading