When dealing with a sensitive subject such as suicide, creating awareness can be a difficult task. As the second leading cause of death among college students in the United States, Active Minds at Mercyhurst University is committed to shedding light on the issue.
On Monday, April 22, the student-run organization will unveil a display of hundreds of university and high school t-shirts during an 8 p.m. ceremony in Garvey Park. Active Minds had sought to collect 1,100 t-shirts to represent the number of college students who end their lives by suicide each year and, to date, have collected more than 700.
“For many students, the college experience is the first time they have been away from home, far from familiar support systems, and working under intense pressure,” said Missi Berquist, Active Minds adviser and an instructor in the Family-to-Family educational program for the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).
“College can create feelings of anxiety, stress and inadequacy, not to mention feelings of loneliness, confusion or sadness,” she said. “Active Minds tries to create the peer-to-peer support system that encourages students to seek help with trained professionals.”
“We want to eliminate the stigma that exists surrounding mental health,” said junior and Active Minds president Shauna Novobilsky. “We want to send the message that 1,100 is actually a huge number, and that it’s OK to seek help. I’m hoping that if it comes down to it, this awareness event has passed on enough information that will inspire a student to help his or herself, a roommate or a friend.”
Since earlier this year, Active Minds has been collecting t-shirts from universities and high schools across the country. The shirts will be strung together in two massive displays, one in Garvey Park; the other in front of Baldwin Hall; until Friday, April 26.
The purpose of Active Minds is to increase awareness about mental health concerns, remove the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, encourage open conversation and support across campuses nationwide and act as a liaison between students and services available.
For additional information about Active Minds, contact Novobilsky at firstname.lastname@example.org,or Berquist at email@example.com.
For students needing support, the Mercyhurst University Counseling Center is available. Call 824-3650. The center maintains a walk-in “Urgent Hour” from 2-3 p.m. Monday through Friday for students with immediate concerns. Emergency assistance is also available evenings and weekends by contacting Police and Safety at 824-2541 or 824-2304.