student life – Active Minds Blog Changing the conversation about mental health Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:00:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 13 Ways to Continue the Conversation about 13 Reasons Why Tue, 18 Apr 2017 13:39:27 +0000 By Markie Pasternak

Markie Pasternak is a 2016 alumnus from Marquette University, where she served as Chapter President of her Active Minds chapter and President of the Active Minds National Student Advisory Committee. She is currently a graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington.

A note from Active Minds: Many people have found 13 Reasons Why triggering. In making your own decision to watch or not watch, we encourage you to review this resource from the Jed Foundation and SAVE. Markie’s perspective below is one of the many nuanced ways that mental health advocates and organizations have responded to 13 Reasons Why and we present her thoughts as a way to continue the conversation. Additional note that several spoilers are mentioned below.

In the spring of 2008, I was bullied. Even though these girls were in 8th grade, they had the ability to make me feel the size of an ant. They left me out, spread rumors behind my back and used me anytime they could. One of my other friends was also living with severe depression and attempted suicide.

This was a lot for a 14-year-old girl. So, on a rainy evening in April, at my local bookstore, I found a book that I thought might tell me why one of my best friends didn’t want to live anymore, why these girls at school didn’t see me as an equal. Most importantly, why when I was shouting out to the whole world for help, no one was answering. That book was 13 Reasons Why. Not only did this book help me to get some of these questions answered, but it created more questions— the questions I needed to be asking.

I am now a 23-year-old graduate student, but the new series based on the book did the same thing to me — it answered some of my questions, and is making me ask more. As advocates, it is our job to help facilitate these conversations. Recognizing that these are hard to do, here are 13 ways to continue the conversation about 13 Reasons Why.

  1. Say “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide.”

Hannah Baker did not “commit” suicide, she “died by suicide.” Why? Because suicide is not a crime, it is an unfortunate ending, often to a long battle with mental illness. When we use language like “committed,” we perpetuate a culture of blame on the victims, which makes people afraid to admit they are having thoughts about suicide. It also shames those who attempt suicide, adding to the stigma rather than providing support.

  1. Help others recognize their privilege.

I don’t speak for all women, but I know that I cannot be the only one who has been objectified by someone. This issue is dismissed in many of the reviews of the series. It isn’t just a women’s issue — anyone can experience sexual harassment or assault. If you have had the privilege of never having someone think that they had the right to treat you as less than human, take time to hear from those of us who have had these experiences. If you hear people dismiss issues that don’t affect them, call them out on it.

  1. Watch 13 Reasons Why with your parents.

If I were a parent and I saw my kid running around with cassette tapes for a week, noticed their bike was missing, and saw scars on their face, I would be concerned, too. But, setting aside that aside, the parents in the series were clueless about their children’s lives.

Parents need context for what is going on and to learn how to help. I know. “Do I want to watch some of those scenes with my parents?” I watched Gossip Girl with my mom in high school. Remember some of the things that went down in that? There were six seasons. You can do this.

  1. Bring social class into the conversation.

As we saw Justin admire Bryce’s family and get pushed around by his mom’s boyfriend, his character pulled in the theme of social class into the series.

Justin felt so inferior to Bryce that he was afraid to stop or report the rape he knew Bryce committed. Bryce supported Justin. That made Justin feel indebted to him.

Digging deeper, Justin feared power and didn’t trust authority. He didn’t have the social/cultural capital to make connections with school professionals like Marcus and Courtney had. This left him feeling alone. We need to be aware of social class differences and how they affect people’s experiences.

  1. Educate yourself and others on sexual assault.

We can probably agree that Bryce’s comments about the rape were disturbing. The fact that this 18-year-old boy could not define what rape is, is terrible and a statement about how we are educating young adults about sexual assault and harassment. If you cannot define sexual assault and know the difference between assault and harassment, put this article on pause and look these things up. Then work on educating those who may not understand.

  1. Hold your school accountable. Be a part of movements for change.

Liberty High was reactive — hanging posters about drunk driving after a student had been killed drunk driving and posters about suicide after a student had died by suicide. The students did not respond well. Schools need to have these conversations before a tragedy.

We play a role in seeking justice and raising awareness. Host a suicide awareness week, apply for the Send Silence Packing® tour or an Active Minds Speaker to come to your campus. The best thing you can do is help prevent tragedies by letting people know they are cared for and help is available.

  1. Think critically about pornography.

Clay realized the picture of Courtney and Hannah had affected him, too. He had used their picture for pleasure, but after listening to Courtney’s tape, he deletes the picture and all the pornographic images on his computer. My arms flew up in victory, not just for Clay but for all.

A man who was committing the crime of stalking took the photo at the expense of the dignity and respect of Hannah and Courtney. But let’s talk about how a lot of porn is actually produced. Some porn comes at the expense of women trafficked into sex slavery, some porn comes at the expense of women who leave their families to film porn because they feel they have few other options. Let’s start talking about where porn comes from and how, in many instances, it perpetuates rape culture and oppression.

  1. Don’t be afraid to question mental health professionals.

We cannot afford for mental health professionals to respond to students the way Mr. Porter, the school counselor, did. Beyond telling Hannah to ride out the next two months because her rapist will soon graduate, he disregarded Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.

There are A TON of skilled mental health professionals out there who work every day to ensure their clients’ wellness. However, for those not doing it well, we need to call them out. As advocates, we can help make sure our schools’ resources are quality. If we don’t call out a bad practice, then we run the risk of deterring a person who has gained the courage to try counseling from returning.

  1. Take a vow to stop using the words “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore.”

Again, language matters. When we use words like “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore” to describe women, we are perpetuating a culture in which we label, shame, and objectify women. In the show, it was never “Hannah Baker, the amazing poetry writer” or “Hannah Baker, the smart, witty girl who stands up for herself.” It was “Hannah Baker, best ass in the sophomore class.” When we call women or anyone these names, we take away their humanity. As we saw in the series, these ideas about a person can spread.

  1. Get certified in QPR or Mental Health First Aid.

Think about getting certified in QPR (Question Persuade Refer) or Mental Health First Aid to develop the skills to help someone in crisis. Ask you campus counseling center if they offer QPR or Mental Health First Aid certification. If your campus does not offer these programs, look up where you can get certified in your local community or reach out to Active Minds for more information.

  1. Recognize that Counseling Centers are many times a “white space.” Start talking about what inclusivity looks like.

Mr. Porter is a black, male counselor at Liberty High. That is pretty cool! Why? Because there are not many mental health professionals who identify as people of color. (Side note: if there aren’t enough people of a certain identity being represented in a specific space, it isn’t helpful to portray them in that space negatively.)

Most counseling centers are predominantly white spaces. Many students of color are not feeling that their experiences are validated. This is a huge problem. We need to include students of color and multicultural groups in our efforts. Listen to their perspectives. Advocate for inclusive hiring practices.

  1. Make connections with people different from you.

We are tempted to surround ourselves with people who are like us in interests and identities. The more we do that, the less we allow ourselves to learn new things about the world and about people.

Here’s a quick activity: think about aspects of who you are. What identities do you hold (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, social class, religion)? Now, think about the five people you are closest to. How are they different from you? How are they the same? Think about what you’ve learned through those relationships, and recognize that there is so much more you could be learning by getting to know other people.

  1. Reflect on your thoughts about the series with others.

What ideas came as you watched the series? Anything you saw that you never thought about before?  Did anyone in the series make you consider a new perspective? Take time to think about it.

Then, talk to other people who have watched the series. Gather their thoughts, too. Start thinking about the issues presented in the series and start asking questions. Maybe even write a blog post like this one. This is the way we are going to create change on our campuses.  Everyone has their own unique ideas. Trust me when I say, the world wants to hear yours.

On the Road Again: Send Silence Packing Fall 2016 Tour Thu, 01 Sep 2016 12:00:45 +0000 ssp fall 2016_promo

We’re about a week away from kicking off the Fall 2016 tour of our nationally recognized suicide prevention display, Send Silence Packing! Similar to last fall, we’ll be visiting colleges and universities across the Midwestern states and throughout California.

Send Silence Packing consists of 1,100 donated backpacks, representing the number of college students lost to suicide each year. The program is designed to raise awareness about the incidence and impact of suicide, connect students to needed mental health resources and inspire action for suicide prevention.

The Fall 2016 tour starts next week at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV and will then travel to 13 additional locations in Pennsylvania, Illinois and California. See below for the full list of dates and locations. We’ll be in the road for quite some time, September 6 – November 2, so keep an eye on the blog and @active_minds on Instagram during the tour to see pictures from the displays.

Fall 2016 Promo_update

Worried About a Friend? Here’s How to Support Them Fri, 26 Feb 2016 13:23:48 +0000 For most of my life, I’ve wished that I had some sort of a handbook for being a friend. I think I do a pretty decent job (although, I suppose you’d have to check with my friends on that one), but there’s no way to be there for someone perfectly all the time.

I mean, how many times have I told a friend I knew how they felt without really having any idea whatsoever?

How many times have I just jumped to giving advice and solving the problem when all they needed was a sounding board?

How many times did I know someone was struggling, but I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all?

The truth is that there’s no perfect way to be a friend, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to help a friend admit they need help, seek that help, get the help, and manage their recovery. There are way too many variables in play.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little guide for that journey?

That’s why we created the Be A Friend resources.

If you have questions about whether the warning signs you’re seeing in your friend’s behavior might be a sign of distress, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to react when a friend who is in need of help stops going to therapy, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to take care of yourself while you do an incredible job of being an amazing support person, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve also added personal stories from members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau–they’ll tell you what their journey was like, how friends and family helped them through it all, and their advice for being there for a struggling friend.

It’s not the end all, be all of resources. But we look forward to hearing what you think, adding your stories, and continuing to expand the content to include more specialized resources on identity development and the impacts of trauma and discrimination.

You’re a great friend. We’re just here to help you show it.

6 Ways to Practice Self-Care on Valentine’s Day Wed, 10 Feb 2016 12:14:20 +0000 Valentines Day_Active MinsdIt’s almost that time of year again, and I’m not talking about tax season. That’s right, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Are you excited? You should be!

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to step away from stress, slow down, and focus on your mental health. This year, celebrate with the following 6 short and sweet ideas for your best (and healthiest) Valentine’s Day yet!

1. Treat Yourself: Plan an activity, take a fun class, pamper yourself, or try something new.

2. Get active: Seasonal Depression is snow joke (sorry). Conquer the winter blues by grabbing a friend and going for a brisk walk. Fresh air and sunlight is a surefire way to get your heart pumping.

3. Celebrate all of your relationships: From family and friends, to co-workers and roommates, take time to let those closest to your heart know you care.

4. Make a healthy (and delicious) meal: Better yet, make a meal and invite those friends over for dinner!

5. Make someone’s day: The simplest gesture can have the greatest impact! Encourage someone through a random act of kindness.

6. Rest: At the end of your busy and exciting day, make sure to get the sleep that you deserve.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

October’s Chapter of the Month: Denison University Fri, 30 Oct 2015 08:51:57 +0000 11026215_828194107228886_7673732389288780279_n

Congratulations to Active Minds at Denison University for being named Chapter of the Month! This recently reactivated chapter is consistently engaging their campus with awesome programs and meetings that help to raise mental health awareness and fight stigma! Find out some of the top reasons that we love Active Minds at Denison University:


1. Strong reactivation

Kristina Keidel, a junior at Denison University, helped to reconnect Denison’s chapter with the national office based on her strong passion for mental health awareness.  This chapter formerly brought about four to six members to their meetings, but now has over 50 people at their weekly meetings, according to The Den, an on-campus newspaper at Denison University. Not only have they built up their membership, but they have also reached the wider campus community in ways they hadn’t before reactivating as a chapter.


Active Minds at Denison University student leaders at the 2014 National Mental Health on Campus Conference

2. Creative Take on Mental Health Awareness Week

They combined various types of programming throughout their week-long event to reach different campus communities and were featured in the Denisonian, for their efforts like self-care packages, positive message name tags, student and faculty panel, karaoke night, and food truck fun. They combined mental health education and conversations with stress reducing and fun activities to spread the word about this fairly new organization on campus.


Denison University students making self-care packages as part of Mental Health Awareness Week

3. Extremely Successful Fundraising

Active Minds at Denison University has had enormous success fundraising during the 2014-2015 academic year as well as so far this year. Their fundraising efforts included a Denison-themed raffle with tickets sold during parents weekend, personal fundraising pages online, and other efforts at their programs. Within their first year as a re-established chapter, this chapter was able to raise over $1,000, surpassing their annual chapter fundraising goal! This year Denison’s chapter has already met their yearly goal of $1,000 through a family donation and a donation of a portion of the proceeds from a jewelry show that one of the board members hosted over the summer. They also applied for grants through their university to acquire additional funding for programs like National Day Without Stigma. This chapter has proved that fundraising is the most successful when using multiple avenues to raise money!


Denison students eating pizza from a food truck that donated 15% of the profits to Active Minds

4. Relationship with Counseling Center

Denison’s chapter works closely with their counseling center, Whisler Health Services, to encourage students to seek help if they need it. A Denison sophomore, Sam Stamas, was quoted in The Den’s article about Active Minds as saying that “anyone can go to counseling. You don’t have to be having any major issues, or even issues at all – if you just want someone to talk to and listen, that is 100% fine.” Besides clarifying the misconceptions around counseling, Active Minds at Denison University is working with the counseling center to create mock counseling intake sessions for students who want to see what counseling is like before regularly going to sessions.


Denison students and faculty in a Mental Health Panel as part of Mental Health Awareness Week

This group of dedicated students at Denison University has been impressive right from the start. We can’t wait to see what else you will do to change the conversation about mental health on your campus!

Chapter Success Tips for Summer Wed, 24 Jun 2015 08:08:34 +0000 Welcome to summer! While you soak up the sun and relax after all the hard work you have put in this past year, remember there is always more that can be done.

We are so proud of your dedication to fighting stigma and changing the conversation about mental health. In order to have the best year ever, you have to prepare yourself for success. We have 10 tips for you to pave your path to success and plan for another great year at your chapter!

(Also feel free to share these images on your chapter’s social media networks!)

1. Create a tentative timeline for the year:

Tip1_Staying Active Summer

2. Hold a board retreat:

Tip2_Staying Active Summer

3. Take time to learn your school’s event policies:

Tip3_Staying Active Summer

4. Check our Active Minds program bank:

Tip4_Staying Active Summer

5. Keep your social media pages active:

Tip5_Staying Active Summer

6. Make schedules of national awareness events and what you need each year:

Tip6_Staying Active Summer

7. Start brainstorming general meeting ideas:

Tip7_Staying Active Summer

8. Reach out to organizations you are interesting in partnering with:

Tip8_Staying Active Summer

9. Get crafty! Make some things to sell to raise money:

Tip9_Staying Active Summer

10. Look for grants to apply for:

Tip10_Staying Active Summer

Take advantage of the time you have this summer! Get planning and get a lot of work done. Capitalize on the summer and gear up for the best year ever. Follow some or all of these tips and your chapter will be ready to take the year by storm.

Chapter of the Month: Occidental College Fri, 22 May 2015 18:29:11 +0000 1425555_253282681496020_167931192_nOccidental College has been named Chapter of the Month for May! Their stigma-fighting techniques have caught our eye and we want every chapter to know about them, too.

Active Minds at Occidental College did not rest for a minute this spring semester, working continuously to break the barriers to mental health services on campus.

In addition to leading a diverse panel of 10 students who spoke openly about their mental health issues to a large classroom of peers, the chapter was also recently recognized for their on-campus advocacy for the addition of a peer mentoring program in the counseling center.

Featured in the Occidental Weekly, a student-run paper at Occidental College, the chapter hosted a successful mental health panel of diverse students on Thursday, April 17th, and they were also recently recognized for their successful advocacy for the establishment of a new peer mentoring program—all in one year!

Students who attended the panel noted how eye-opening it was to listen to peers share their personal struggles with mental health, because it is a topic that is not normally discussed in regular conversation. The chapter also conducted considerable outreach to include more diverse voices in the conversation, including those of males and students of color, and noted the importance of breaking down gender and racial barriers through story-sharing.

Active Minds at Oxy were also instrumental in gathering signatures for a petition in support of the establishment of a peer mentoring program in the health center, a mental health presentation during new student orientation, and the installment of a case manager at Emmons Student Wellness Center. After two weeks of working, Active Minds at Oxy received 550 signatures.

This past year, Matt Calkins, Director of the Counseling Center, approached Active Minds to tell them he was going to create the peer mentoring program. Incorporating this program into the health center allows students to work directly with Emmons Wellness Center, which provides students the opportunity to have their voices heard on matters that directly impact them.

The students selected will undergo intensive training on topics such as active listening, motivational interviewing skills and special topics like drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and medical health advocacy.

Congrats to Active Minds at Oxy for all of their successful stigmafighting efforts! Implementing a program this large is a major programming success for a chapter and the national office could not be more proud!


Mental Health News Round-Up: May 15 Fri, 15 May 2015 08:49:10 +0000 Silence is Deadly: Mental Health and the Black Community

The first lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, shares her father’s personal experience with depression and her daughter’s struggle with addiction and anxiety to fight the silence in the black community surrounding mental heath.  This op-ed follows her announcement of $73.8 million dollars in initiatives to provide treatment to those with greatest need and the least access in NYC.

LGBTQ Students At Higher Eating Disorder Risk

A new survey of university students compares the rates of disordered eating for sexual and gender minorities to heterosexual females since most of the research focuses on this group.  Students who identified as transgender were four times more likely to report an eating disorder.

In Palo Alto’s High-Pressure Schools, Suicides Lead to Soul-Searching

After a string of suicides, a high school junior talks about the pressure of being in a student in the highly competitive environment of Palo Alto, California. Project Safety Net offers resources specifically for Palo Alto teens and the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1(800) 273-8255.

Therapists Target Mental Health Stigma with ‘Sidewalk Talks’

To reduce the stigma of going to therapy, some providers sat outside and offered 15 minutes of free listening on the crowded San Francisco streets.

Slowly But Surely, More Entrepreneurs Are Coming Out About Depression, Seeking Support Online

In the high pressure environment of Silicon Valley, many entrepreneurs and start up founders feel they “always have to over-represent the positive and underplay the negatives.” In addition to seeking professional services and speaking out about mental health, innovators also are doing what they do best, designing websites. For example, 7 Cups of Tea aims to create listening communities where people can be authentic about what is actually happening in their lives.

‘Sad but Rad’: Fashion Brand Aims to get People Talking about Mental Health

Can clothing change the conversation about mental health? The cofounders of Wear Your Label think so.


Program Spotlight: Loyola’s Easter Break Shuttles Wed, 13 May 2015 08:55:11 +0000 BtZCmoOCQAAginS-300x300Let’s hear it for Active Minds at Loyola University in Maryland for their participation in the on-campus Easter Break Shuttle — these stigma fighters have fundraising down to a tee!

On April 1st and 2nd, two days leading up to Easter Break at Loyola, the Student Government Association offered $10 shuttles to pick up students from campus and drive them to the local airport in Baltimore, about 45 minutes south of campus, making it possible for out-of-state students to receive an affordable trip to the airport and to get home safely for Easter Break. The Active Minds chapter was chosen as one of four organizations to serve as beneficiaries of the profits, allowing them to raise funds at the same time!

Ahead of the shuttle ticket sale, student groups were encouraged to apply with SGA to receive the profits, and Active Minds at Loyola was one of four organizations selected out of a large group of applicants. This meant that with the purchase of tickets, students were given the option to donate their ticket money to the Active Minds chapter or one of the other three groups.


As it turns out, Active Minds at Loyola University Maryland was the second highest organization to receive donations from the shuttle trips! They were also recognized by their school as Club of the Year. Congratulations, Active Minds at Loyola Maryland, for all of your hard work this year. It has certainly paid off!

Read more about other successful programs in the Program Bank. In order to access the program bank, you must be registered on the Active Minds website. To register, follow this link.

Chapter of the Month: Active Minds at Johns Hopkins University Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:30:40 +0000 IMG_2720Its that time again! The national office is proud to announce that Active Minds chapter at Johns Hopkins University is April’s Chapter of the Month!

Active Minds at JHU has paired with The Highwood Theatre to assist the actors in accurately depicting characters who are living with mental illnesses, while simultaneously providing education and awareness to the cast and crew.

One of the most exciting components of this production is the collaboration among high school and college students. Active Minds at JHU is teaching high school students about the prevalence of mental health issues and how seeking help for these issues is a sign of strength.

IMG_2453Matthew Nicola, a theatre major and Vice President of Active Minds at JHU, spearheaded the production of the play “August: Osage County” at the Highwood Theatre. The play addresses suicide, mental illness and substance abuse—all issues that teens are familiar with and struggle to understand. A special shout-out goes to the Montgomery County College NAMI chapter (National Alliance of Mental Illness), George Mason University, Marymount University, and the University of Maryland College Park for their extensive help executing the project.

All of the collaborators provided education to the high school students so they can gain knowledge of learning how to cope with mental health issues. Following the play, Active Minds at JHU is hosting a panel discussion to help the Highwood Theatre raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.


Nicola has noted what a pleasure it has been to work with the high school students at Highwood Theatre. The actors have “taken what they’ve learned and, in many ways, become ‘ambassadors’ for this very important cause among their own friends, families, and communities,” said Nicola.

The Highwood Theatre was also offered a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County to support their efforts and to empower the actors. Congratulations, Highwood Theatre and Active Minds at JHU!

For more information, visit