Emily Marshall, president of Buffalo State’s Active Minds student group, was introduced to the national Active Minds organization thanks to an exhibit at Buffalo State.
“The exhibit was Send Silence Packing” she said. “They laid empty backpacks on the floor in the student union. Each backpack represents a college student who committed suicide. It was a powerful, moving statement.”
September is Suicide Prevention Month. On Thursday, September 12, during Bengal Pause, the Active Minds group will sponsor an activity in the lobby of E. H. Butler Library. “We’re inviting students to come and create posters that present facts about suicide, how to prevent suicide, and uplifting messages,” said Marshall.
Marshall, a senior who is majoring in psychology, said that one of the most important messages is “You’re not alone.” Teenagers and college students who are making the transition from childhood to adulthood face many challenges for the first time, from homesickness to depression, “A lot of teenagers and young adults think that they are the only ones experiencing those feelings,” she said. The fear of being different, or of facing the stigma associated with any aspect of mental illness, prevents people from seeking help—help that can be life-giving.
“That’s what Active Minds is about,” said Marshall. “It’s about removing the stigma and encouraging people to seek help. People think there is a negative connotation to saying, ‘I have depression’ or ‘I have an eating disorder.’ We want to help students get the help they need. College is a place where you can get counseling for free. Take advantage of it!”
Suzanne Johnson, adviser to Active Minds, is a senior counselor at the Buffalo State Counseling Center. Johnson said that the focus of Active Minds is to increase student awareness about mental health issues, provide information about on- and off-campus resources, strive to decrease stigma about mental health issues, and to serve as liaison between the Counseling Center and students.
“No student has to deal with mental health issues alone,” said Johnson. “The Counseling Center is here for students.” Active Minds—which is not a peer support group—encourages students to take advantage of services available to them.
Active Minds meets on the first and third Thursday of every month during Bengal Pause (12:15 to 1:30 p.m.) in Weigel Health Center 203. “We are always looking for new members,” said Marshall. “It’s a very caring group, and we work hard to encourage students to get the help they need.”