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Targum spotlight: Active Minds works to create mental health dialogue, safe space for students

Active Minds at Rutgers connects students to mental health resources and creates an outlet for open discussion on such topics. – Photo by Courtesy of Catherine Urinyi

Active Minds at Rutgers is an on-campus student organization advocating for open discussion about mental health among the student community.

Catherine Urinyi, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and co-president of Active Minds, said that the non-profit organization was founded by Alison Malmon in 2003 after her brother committed suicide.

She said the organization hosts meetings on prominent issues regarding mental health, like self-care and school stress. It also plans events such as game nights and host discussions where students can share their experiences.

Chantale Miller, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and co-president of Active Minds, said spaces to discuss mental health are crucial, especially on larger campuses like Rutgers that tend to have an isolating effect.

"We want people to remember they are not alone, and being surrounded by people going through similar waves of life is an excellent way to remind people of that," Miller said.

Urinyi said that student-led safe spaces facilitate the sharing of experiences because students can relate to their peers more. The ease of interaction makes students feel more comfortable about sharing their struggles.

She said supporting peers through mental health crises can be draining for students, and pointing those peers to counselors is sometimes the most appropriate option.

Active Minds also emphasizes minority mental health, an often overlooked topic in mental wellness, Miller said. Active Minds organizes the Minority Mental Health Conference every spring, where minority mental health experts offer tips about self-care.

She said that stigmatization of mental health in minority communities prevents students from expressing their worries. Although Rutgers offers multiple resources for mental well-being, they might not address specific problems for minority students.

"This is something that (Rutgers) Student Health can work on by gaining a more diverse staff of therapists, reaching out to students, and encouraging them that it is a safe space regardless of race, ethnicity, gender (and) sexual orientation," Miller said.

Urinyi said that long wait times render the Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) inaccessible. The addition of Uwill and TogetherAll offers an alternative to students who don't want to use CAPS.

Urinyi and Miller said they aim to foster safe spaces surrounding mental health on campus and direct those suffering to University resources.

Urinyi said her favorite memory was the club's recent "Melt Your Worries" meetings, where the club members ask a set of discussion questions and students share their experiences. These casual conversations resemble those of friends socializing rather than formal club meetings.

"My goal is to create a more extensive network of students involved in Active Minds and have the university recognize it as a safe space for students to take a break from their busy schedules and focus on their mental health. Once I do this successfully, Active Minds will succeed beyond all of our expectations," Miller said.

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