Students hold up the art work they made during the Active Minds meeting. Staff Writer - Gabrielle Giacomelli

Active Minds, a national organization that began in 2003 as a nonprofit dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students, had their first meeting of the semester on Feb. 6 in the Chamberlain Student Center.

Active Minds has been a presence on Rowan’s campus for two and a half years. Mandi Dorrell, an English professor at Rowan, is the advisor of the club and is credited with bringing it to Rowan.

“I knew we needed it,” Dorrell said. “The more we talk about [mental health] the less of an impact it is.”

The club’s purpose is to encourage students to learn about mental health and to seek out help if needed. They achieve this goal through “peer-to-peer dialogue and interaction,” according to the organization’s website. General meetings are held at Rowan to discuss the planning of one or two events.

During this past week’s meeting, the club discussed an event on March 3 called “Paint the Runway.” This event entails students painting a runway on a roll of paper and writing down positive messages of hope. After that, students model clothes they no longer need. This clothing is then made available for any student to take. Any leftover clothing is donated.

President of Rowan’s Active Minds chapter, James Mc Ginty, explained that these general meetings are more of a de-stressor, an event to socialize and become more comfortable with the Rowan community while teaching important messages about mental health.

“This is mainly geared towards mental health awareness,” Mc Ginty said. “Mental health awareness is making sure people understand the different signs and ways to improve upon the various mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and even the larger ones like schizophrenia. Our goal is to also make sure that people talk about them more in a positive manner and make sure people know how to identify those and then use the campus resources to resolve those issues.”

It was a large turn-out for the first meeting. All the chairs were full at the desks, with the remaining students lined up against the wall. During the first 10 minutes, students were given the option to use their imagination to design something using arts and crafts. 

The room was split into three different teams for mental health trivia. Each team had 20 seconds to answer their question.

“741 741 is the suicide text line,” Dorrell said in an answer to one of the questions. “If you need to talk to somebody nation-wide and you do not like talking over the phone, don’t worry; there’s a text line that you can text. They will help you out and will not call the police without your permission.”

There were many informative questions, some of which stumped students in attendance. During a discussion period, some students shared personal stories. One personal story involved the concept of group therapy, which lead to a discussion of the merits of therapy in a group setting. Students also shared the art projects they created at the beginning of the meeting and discussed how the projects could relate to mental health.

“Everybody is really positive and chill and everyone seems very nice,” Frances Edelstein, a junior art major, said. “It’s not one of those clubs that are like ‘this is what we’re doing,’ it’s kind of like hanging out with friends. It’s a space where you can talk to other people.”

Active Minds’ next general meeting is Feb. 24 in Robinson Building room 105 from 5-6 p.m.

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