WRITTEN BY ALISON SKILTON
Active Minds Club might just be the most important club at SFC that you’ve never heard of.
They deal with mental health and wellness on college campuses and strive to make sure every student knows that there are always resources to help you through anything and everything.
Senior Health Promotions major Carina Sciangula has served as the club’s Co-President for two years running. “People shouldn’t be afraid to talk about their mental health. They should be open about it,” she told SFC Today, “They should know that there’s places that they can go to get help, they should know that they’re not alone, and they should know that it’s important that they take care of themselves. We have resources for them.”
Sciangula has been a member of Active Minds for all four of her years at St. Francis, starting out as a member and working her way up to her current leadership position. Since hearing about the organization during her freshman year, she has enthusiastically supported its message. “I thought, ‘This is important. People should know about this. People should know about illnesses.’ There’s so much stigma surrounding [mental illness] because nobody knows about it, nobody talks about it, but they should. I think it’s a really good cause,” she said.
SFC’s Active Minds Club is one of 400 Active Minds chapters present on college campuses around the country. The organization was founded in 2003 by Alison Malmon after her brother—a college student who seemed to be outwardly content—committed suicide. He felt so alone and so stigmatized because of his mental illness, Sciangula said, that he was afraid to reach out for help.
“He never talked about it, the family didn’t know,” she said, “He had depression. So after that, she was like, ‘We need to talk about this.’”
The organization has since grown into a successful non-profit that coordinates nationwide events for hundreds of thousands of college students every year.
SFC’s Active Minds chapter will be holding their first meeting of the semester during the month of November, but Sciangula wants to emphasize the importance of action. “It’s good to have meetings, but I think tabling and doing events is better to get people involved,” she said, “If we’re just talking about mental health then people might not really be interested.”
The group has several events planned for the upcoming year, including their always-popular Stress Less Week which kicks off on December 5. “We’re going to make stress balls in the cafeteria,” Sciangula continued, “We get balloons and fill them with flour and tie them up, and make our own stress balls. It’s nice, it’s right before finals week when everyone wants to relax. We’ve done it the past couple years and everyone loves it.”
They also collaborated with the LGBTQ Club for their recent Ally Week, are working with various on-campus organizations for “Week of the Girl,” made “stigma hands” for National Day Without Stigma, and are hoping to join forces with the newly-formed Colorful Souls to offer art therapy.
The club’s moderator—Health Promotions Professor Dr. Starr Eaddy—echoed the importance of the organization’s message. “Millions of Americans live with some level of mental health issue,” she told SFC Today, “And that goes from anxiety to depression to any of a host of other psychological disorders. The beauty of what active minds does is it destigmatizes those who are living with mental disorders to make it safe and easy for them to get help, but also to be accepted for who they are.”
She continued, “Some of us are tall, some of us are short, some of us are large, some of us are small, and we all want to be accepted for who we are. It’s no different for people with depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or any of the host of other disorders. […] It’s an amazing organization to have at the college.”
Active Minds wants SFC students to be aware of on-campus resources available to them, like our campus nurse, Elizabeth Giugliano, and two licensed social workers, Francesca Cerchione and Jean Marie Kelly, all of whom are available for students in the Health & Wellness Center, Room 2310.
“If students need to get treatment or they just want someone to talk to, they should know that we actually have [those people],” Sciangula said.
All students are welcome to join Active Minds and contribute to making SFC’s campus a healthier place for all students.