The life changes college students face over a span of four years can take a staggering toll on mental health. And on college campuses it’s something that’s often “hush-hush,” at least among the student body.
A new group, Active Minds, is working to start the conversation at Hiram College through the first annual mental health awareness week, called Green Week, March 24-29, 2014. A week of programming will lead up to an Out of the Darkness Walk to prevent suicide, from 9 a.m. to noon, on March 29, 2014.
“Green Week” refers to the sense of recycling and renewing students will experience throughout the week, said Samantha Hughes ’15, biology major and vice president of Active Minds.
“Green is also the color for mental health,” she said. “It’s a way to be renewed from all the bad stigma that goes along with depression and stress.”
Active Minds became an official student organization in 2013, and the group is recognized as a national organization by the nonprofit Active Minds, which supports campus organizations across the country. This is the Hiram group’s first major event, and the officers hope to make Green Week an annual week of recognition.
And on a larger scale, they hope to make Hiram College’s mental health resources more widely known.
Dr. Kevin Feisthamel, Active Minds adviser and director of counseling, health and disability services at the Julia Church Health Center, offers free counseling services to all full time students. The officers want students to know that he is there to help them talk through their problems, offer support or suggest additional resources to improve mental health.
Hughes and Kailey Cooper ’15, biology major and secretary of Active Minds, agree that college students experience stress, depression and other mental health issues, because of the many transitions that occur.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us; it’s a transition period into becoming a new adult,” Cooper said. “You feel the need to be independent, and you don’t want to talk about the problems you face.”
It’s something that can’t be taught in a classroom, but something a community can rally around and cope with together.
“On our campus, we feel like we can do it because we’re a tight-knit community,” Hughes said. “The word can spread.”
Both Hughes and Cooper have experienced the suicide of a close friend or family member, so mental health is a cause that holds special meaning to them.
“I joined because I’m always interested in finding different ways to help people,” Hughes said. “Previously, I didn’t know what the signs of suicide were. I figured if I can learn, maybe I can help someone else.”
Green Week Events:
Monday, March 24: Mental Health Awareness Panel on suicide prevention
- 4-6 p.m., Alumni Heritage Room (Teachout-Price)
Tuesday, March 25: PTSD Awareness Day
- Information table in Dining Hall from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
- Tables will be set up in residence halls during evening hours for students to write cards to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wednesday, March 26: Stories on the Wall, co-sponsored by PRYSM
- National stories about bullying and sexual orientation discrimination will be printed and posted around the Kennedy Center Main Lounge to raise awareness.
- Residence hall programming
Thursday, March 27: The Science of Happiness
- Dr. Kevin Feisthamel, director of counseling, health and disability services, will host an information table in Dining Hall from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on the science of happiness.
Friday, March 28: De-Stress Day
- Various de-stress activities (Zumba, board games, tea tables) will take place around campus to get students excited about Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Walk.
Saturday, March 29: Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention
- Registration begins at 9 a.m. in the Kennedy Center; walk takes place 10 a.m. to noon.
- Participants will walk as a group around campus in support of suicide prevention
- Active Minds has set a fundraising goal of $5,000.
- Sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention