Active Minds on a Mission: Talking About Mental Health

The University of Iowa chapter of Active Minds is a student-run group on a mission to expand the conversation surrounding mental health on campus. Over the last four years they have partnered with numerous organizations to broaden their reach and make sure that every Hawkeye knows they are supported. Read on to see what President Samantha Stoll has to say about the organization and the positive impact it is making on campus. 

Can you give me an overview of what Active Minds is?

Active Minds is a national non-profit organization (based in D.C.) that has chapters on college campuses all throughout the US! The organization focuses on student advocacy for mental health on college campuses and to start the conversation about mental health in order to let students know they are not alone in their struggles and that there are resources available.

Can you tell me your Active Minds story?

I became a member of Active Minds after signing up for Active Minds’ e-mails at the student organization fair my first semester at Iowa. I have personally been diagnosed with a mental illness and very much felt that I was alone in my situation and wanted to make sure no one ever felt alone or that they could not talk about their experiences. I was passionate about Active Minds’ mission and was able to become the Events Coordinator in my sophomore year. After loving my experience of getting to promote mental health awareness events on campus (like Field of Memories, Yoga on the Pentacrest, and Hug Your Brain with the Honors program) I had the opportunity to become President my junior year and continue that role now into my senior year at Iowa!

How has Active Minds impacted your college experience?

It has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. Period. Active Minds has taught me how to speak openly about the issues I care about and how to advocate for students who may not feel they have the voice to ask for change. It has reminded me that my voice — and the student voice — is important and can create change. It has brought me so many close friends (both students and faculty) who share my same passions and allowed me to see that it’s okay to talk about our mental health struggles, no one is alone, and there are always resources I can count on when I need it.  

Any notable stories from your time with the club?

The most notable stories/change that I have seen within my 4 years with Active Minds is the amount of growth and impact the organization has had. We have gone from being a pretty independent group to now having other student organizations, greek life, student government, and community partners collaborating with us on mental health awareness events throughout the year. This has included being able to fund Send Silence Packing: a large visual display of the number of college students in the US that die by suicide each year using backpacks, as well as helping promote Iowa’s mental health fair — Fresh Check Day. I also used my experience with Active Minds my freshman year to advocate for university-wide mental health and suicide prevention training with my Vice President, Amber Crown, that is just now about to be implemented! 

What events does Active Minds participate in, or is working on now?

Each year Active Minds hosts a suicide awareness/prevention display on the Pentacrest in the spring to show the number of college students in the nation that die by suicide each year. We also do fun events like Yoga on the Pentacrest, participate in Fresh Check Day each year, and occasionally do "compliments and candy". We also host informational lectures at one meeting each month to learn more about different mental health topics.

What goals does Active Minds have for the future?

[We're] always moving towards normalizing talking about mental health, as well as normalizing help-seeking behaviors! We are looking at all ways to accomplish this, whether that be working with student government, student organizations, resident assistants, or hosting our own public events! And of course, to keep growing in our numbers because it's important for students to realize that although not everyone has a mental illness (although 1 in 5 adults do), every single student has mental health and we should all be equipped to help each other. Hawks help Hawks, right?  

How can students get involved in Active Minds?

Students can get involved by e-mailing and saying they are interested in joining and/or to sign up to receive our emails about upcoming events and meetings in order to stay up to date! Even if you cannot make meetings, there are plenty of events and volunteer opportunities throughout the semester to get involved in which you can be notified about via our emails! This semester, our meetings are Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. in Room 346 of IMU.