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New campus group is minding mental health

December 08, 2008

Kate Maloney says she had a hunch that if she created a campus organization aimed at promoting mental health awareness that plenty of students would be interested.

“Students know there are mental health issues out there, but they don’t necessarily know all the resources that are available right here for them,” said Maloney, who formed Active Minds, a campus chapter of the national group by the same name. “So many students are either dealing with these issues or know someone who is.”

Maloney, who is a Psychology major, said she decided to create Active Minds in the hopes of encouraging students to talk more openly about mental health issues and to make more students aware of the counseling services that are available to them on campus.

For instance, McDaniel’s Wellness Center, which includes the college’s health clinic and counseling center, is housed on the second floor of Winslow Center.

The Wellness Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students may schedule appointments with the center by calling 410-857-2243. Services are available around-the-clock. For after-hours emergencies, students can contact the on-call area coordinator or campus safety at 410-857-2202 or 2202 from an on-campus phone.

In recent years, and especially since last year’s shooting attack at Virginia Tech, college counselors have reported an increasing number of students seeking treatment and a greater severity of the mental conditions that on-campus health professionals are seeing, according to Susan Glore, who oversees McDaniel’s Wellness Center, which includes the college’s health clinic and counseling center.

Groups like Active Minds strive to help students navigate the mental health issues, many of which surface or intensify during the college-age years, Maloney said.

According to its national website, Active Minds is the nation’s only nonprofit organization that is devoted to helping students raise mental health awareness among their peers on college campuses. The Washington, D.C.-based group develops and supports student-run chapters on colleges and university campuses.

Maloney said that an initial organizational meeting held during the fall 2007 semester drew more than 40 people, an attendance that far exceeded her expectations and encouraged her to move forward with launching the group last semester.

Since then, about 80 students have chimed in on the group’s Blackboard page and the group’s biweekly meetings and other activities have been well attended.

One particularly successful activity that the group held last spring was the “Regress to Your Childhood” event. Taking a break from hitting the books, students let their creative juices flow with an assortment of coloring books, bubble makers and miniature golf.

“The students really got into it,” Maloney said. “You could tell they weren’t thinking about the stress in their lives.”

The group is planning activities for next semester, including a community arts project that could be centered around anonymous postcards on which students would share their secret worries.

“Our hope is that students will realize that others are dealing with similar issues,” Maloney said.

To encourage more students to get involved, the group doesn’t require formal membership. Anyone is welcome at anytime at the group’s planning meetings and events, Maloney said.

“We want to be that group that you can go to if you need somewhere to go,” she said. “Even students who aren’t members of ‘Active Minds’ know who we are and what we do.”