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ProActive Minds

Written by Alyssa Richard

Balloons were everywhere at the Active Minds "Stomp Out the Stigma" spring rally.

After losing her brother to suicide, University of Pennsylvania student Allison Malman was determined to find a way to change the conversation about mental health and help students become more aware of the mental health resources available to them. The student organization Active Minds, originally called Open Minds, was her answer.

Started by Malman in 2001, Active Minds was officially approved as a non-profit organization in 2003, and quickly grew to include more than 170 campus chapters throughout the United States. Today the mission of the organization is to destigmatize mental health disorders by promoting open, enlightened discussion of mental health, and to create a better life for all who suffer.

The Ithaca College chapter of Active Minds is one of the most influential and successful clubs on campus. The IC chapter was started in 2005, but it took a few years to establish strong leadership and participation. By fall 2007, the club found a trusty adviser in Lebron Rankins, a counselor at the Ithaca College Counseling Center. Co-presidents Joe Fraoli '10 and Caitlin Bango '09, both psychology majors, stepped into leadership roles and wasted no time in making the club known on campus.

Watch members of IC's chapter of Active Minds accept the 2008 Revitalization Award at the National Mental Health on Campus Conference at the University of Pennsyvlania.

Through mental health awareness weeks, fundraisers, events, concerts, tabling, and weekly meetings, the IC chapter has made an impact on mental health awareness on campus.

“Stomp out the Stigma,” one of the largest events sponsored by Active Minds, attracted students this spring with a night of performances, paneling, and fun activities. Students from SAFER (Students Taking Action to End Rape) bravely shared their stories on stage to inspire others to seek help, take action, and help others.

Other annual events include Stress Out Week and De-Stress Fest, offering students a variety of activities to relax and learn effective methods of coping with stress. Active Minds also hosts residence hall floor programs and actively participates in events such as Relay for Life and the national Active Minds conference held every year.

“Students don’t always talk about mental health issues," says Bango. "They keep them secret. We want to change that, and we are.”

When asked how effective he thinks the organization is on campus, Fraoli notes that the Ithaca College Counseling Center has seen more students in the past 2 years since Active Minds became “active” on campus.

Another observation that Fraoli and many other students make is that campus conversation about mental health truly is changing. Students are confiding in their friends more, and topics such as stress, depression, suicide, anxiety, rape, and eating disorders are no longer taboo issues.

Active Minds of Ithaca College has an executive board and about 20 faithful members -- and they're always looking for more! They form committees so that each member holds some kind of responsibility. With meetings every Wednesday evening, plans for this semester's Stress-Out Week in the works, and a danceathon on tap for the end of the semester, there's nothing inactive about Active Minds!



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