Today’s entry is the first of a few guest blog entries to highlight different mental illness perspectives. I am super excited to introduce you all to my friend Lori’s amazing daughter, Jess Pearson. Jess is a very passionate Mental Health Student Advocate and the current President of Active Minds at Ramapo College of NJ.
A message from Jess……
When I was growing up and going through high school I did not really know much about mental illnesses and how prevalent they were. Teachers taught us to look out for signs of eating disorders or self-harm but nothing much beyond that. Personally, I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years but figured that I was alone or in the minority. It was not until I started college and became involved with Active Minds that I discovered how many people are impacted by mental illness.
I am a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey and I am fortunate to be the current chapter president of Active Minds. This club is a chapter of a larger organization known as Active Minds Inc. The organization is a non-profit that focuses on mental health advocacy, stigma reduction, suicide awareness, and many other topics surrounding mental health in college students. Since the organization was founded in 2003, it has expanded to over 400 college chapters across the United States. In addition there are now chapters at the high school and international level.
As a chapter, we work to further the goals of Active Minds at a local level. This is done by programming various events that raise awareness or just help students destress. One of the most notable national campaigns is called Send Silence Packing, which my college hosted in fall of 2017 during my term as President. This program is a traveling exhibition, hosted by college campuses, that showcases donated backpacks that represent the 1,100 college students lost to suicide each year. This powerful event helps confront a difficult topic and provide an open forum to change the way we discuss mental health. As a follow up to this campaign, my chapter is working towards getting crisis intervention information such as the national suicide hotline and campus counseling services phone number added to the backs of student identification cards. This small change can put important resources at the fingertips of anyone who may be struggling and hopefully make a difference.
Getting involved with Active Minds has made me realize that I am not alone and has allowed me to opportunity to help bring that message to others in my community. I encourage others who wish to advocate or raise awareness to get involved with Active Minds or similar organizations across the country and around the world. Together we can change the conversation about mental illness.