In October, 155 undergraduate student advocates convened to network and share advocacy information at the fourth national Mental Health on Campus Conference, held at American University in Washington, D.C. Active Minds Inc., a national organization that supports mental health awareness, education and advocacy programs run by and for college students, sponsors the annual meeting.
"The conference is Active Minds' chance to connect all of our student advocates, introduce them to each other and really foster a movement of young adult advocates," says Allison Malmon, the founder and executive director of the organization, which has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
This year's conference included a visit to the National Institute of Mental Health and workshops on current mental health issues. In one session, Jerilyn Ross, the president and CEO of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, addressed how anxiety affects college students. Another featured the National Mental Health Association's "mpower" campaign, which uses the Internet, concerts and classrooms to teach teens and young adults about mental health issues.
Additional sessions focused on pitching news stories to the media and garnering funding for chapter activities and campus programs on mental health. Student-led workshops highlighted programs that have worked for various chapters, such as a creative awareness campaign that featured activities such as creative writing workshops and using student-produced plays to promote a dialogue on mental health.
Psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the book, "An Unquiet Mind," (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995) spoke about experiencing her first psychiatric break in college and the importance of personal advocacy. Additional speakers talked about the importance of self-care for student advocates and the legal issues that surround campus mental health.
Graduate students can also get involved. For more information on Active Minds and next year's conference, visit www.activemindsoncampus.org.