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Active Minds engages in National Day without Stigma

By Jeanine RussawStaff Writer 

One in four students has a mental disorder, but it is not always visible. According to Active Minds, a nonprofit that educates students on mental health, most college level students across the nation are not aware of this fact.

Active Minds was created in 2003. Maggie Bertram, Active Minds manager for Student Lead Initiatives, says the organization has a distinct mission: “To help college students use their voice and change the conversation about mental health into something positive.”

This year, October 9 recognized the National Day without Stigma. This is a special day that promotes tolerance and addresses various stigmas associated with mental illness during Mental Health Awareness Week. The week is usually observed during the first full week of October, and Day without Stigma held on a Monday or Tuesday of that week.

The national movement dates back to 2007 and has been a staple in the Active Minds Organization ever since. They have been expanding and offer many ways for everyone interested to get involved.

“There are currently 369 Active Minds chapters on college campuses across the country,” said Bertram.

On Hofstra’s campus students such as Tracy Smith participate within the countrywide initiative. “It’s good to look at mental illnesses from a personal point of view,” said Smith. As president of the Active Minds Hofstra chapter, Smith has personal ties of her own to this issue.

“I got involved because I have a lot of close friends and family members who suffer from mental illnesses,” she said.

These close connections are not uncommon among activists; there is a popular event held by the various Active Minds chapters across America known as Stomp Out Stigma. During this event, those who understand the detrimental effects of stigmatizing those with a mental disorder unify to stomp on bubble wrap illustrated with “hurtful” descriptions such as “wacko” or “crazy.”

The Active Minds Hofstra chapter is taking a different approach this year with Mindfulness Meditation, an event held to remind those in attendance that everyone has mental health, as one of the blockades to that among college students is stress.

This news was exciting to the parent chapter of Active Minds, especially for Bertram.

“It speaks very clearly to our mission,” she said. “It is also the first day of the year we can unite all of our chapters across the country. Now, with our Facebook page, we create many relationships surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s really special.”

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