How CSULB Active Minds is Changing the Conversation on Mental Health
By Steve Zavala
It is no secret that mental health issues have become a growing concern on college campuses today. Whether it’s the stress of school or other factors that impact one’s well-being, college students often become overwhelmed to the point where everything all mounts up and derails their mental health.
Officials on college campuses across the country have responded to the indisputable crisis by investing more in dealing with the issue. Over the years, college campuses have ramped up efforts to address mental health awareness amongst its students by providing counseling, educational workshops, and other services to assist students.
Among them, Active Minds is one group looking to directly combat the stigma against mental health. The national non-profit organization holds over 400 chapters at universities across the country, including one at Long Beach State. The CSULB affiliate of Active Minds is the largest and most notable mental health organization on campus, dedicated to more than just raising mental health awareness among college students.
“You just have to start the conversation and see how many people feel the same way you do,” said Sophie Pung, a current student leader volunteer and former CSULB Active Minds president. “The stigma is real.”
One of the main resources that the organization provides are meetings that are regularly hosted throughout the semester. The meetings are established on encouraging students to speak about mental health and share their own personal experiences. A board member or student organizer leads the meetings with a discussion on a certain condition such as depression or anxiety, and it is then opened up to any student who would like to speak on anything related to the matter. The group meetings are central to the organization’s goal of creating a safe space for discussion on the psychological well-being of college students.
“We just create a safe environment where we can bond and feel free to share,” Pung said. “No one’s going to judge as we are all here for the same thing.”
Throughout each semester, Active Minds brings in renowned mental health speakers to share their own personal experiences and connect with students. Earlier this semester, the organization hosted author and mental health speaker Greg Vogt at the first general meeting of the year. He shared his own journey with depression and how he is overcoming his personal struggles.
Active Minds has also partnered with other organizations and departments in an effort to raise awareness for mental health on campus. The National Society of Collegiate Scholars has been nationally affiliated with Active Minds, with the goal of helping its members break out of the stigma and become leaders.
Active Minds recently worked with the Long Beach State Athletic Department to host the #SameHere event in February that featured athletes, such as former MLB player Mike Marjama, as they shared their inspirational experiences with overcoming mental health issues. Through its partnerships on campus, Active Minds is hoping to garner more interest toward the conversation on mental health.
“Other departments are starting to have more mental health panelists, which consists of students and faculty as we see how we can understand mental health,” Pung said. “I think that mental health awareness is actually going to go up here [at CSULB].”
Active Minds focuses much of their advocacy on providing educational information to students seeking personal help. As today’s society often misconstrues the general perception of mental health, the student-run organization emphasizes the importance of normalizing the conversation and directly engaging with students. More importantly, its top priorities lie with helping students learn more about the topic of mental health and providing ways to cope with it.
“One of the things that I did when I first came here was convincing myself to just join the club and learn more about mental health,” said Abigail Chang, current CSULB Active Minds president. “I never learned about those topics, and now that I have learned more about them, I now understand mental health.”
While there are many challenges and conflicts that a college student faces on a regular basis, Active Minds recognizes this by accommodating to each student with any personal assistance that is needed. This is epitomized as the organization provides students with a platform to speak on mental health, or just let out anything that has hindered their mental well-being. As many of the board members and organizers have also faced mental health issues, the organization strives for personal growth of each student.
“The club has really empowered me to speak up,” Pung said. “When I started going to Active Minds meetings, I didn’t know what to expect, but they encouraged me to speak up and own your voice.”
While the organization will have new faces in charge over the next year, its call to become a stigma fighter will still remain a core cornerstone in its fight to promote community discussion on mental health.