Sharing stories stresses mental health
According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in four college students suffer from a mental illness. That means that currently, there are over 450 students suffering from a mental illness right here on the Hill.
These striking numbers are at odds with an atmosphere on campus that is “generally apathetic” towards mental illness, according to Abigail Myers ’11. After overcoming her own problems with depression, Myers felt the need to raise awareness at the College and founded Active Minds, a club aimed at erasing the stigma associated with mental illness.
“Once I began opening up about my experience I started hearing more and more similar stories from other students at Colby, which helped me feel better so I thought that by writing them down and sharing them, they might make others feel better as well,” Myers said.
Myers’ idea grew, and after receiving a multitude of anonymously submitted testimonials from students on the Hill describing their personal experiences with mental illness, she organized an event to read the stories aloud. Students gathered in the Pugh Center on Thursday, November 4 to listen to these Narratives on Mental Health, read by student volunteers. The event was sponsored by Active Minds and Student Health on Campus (SHOC).
“If you display anything but carefree happiness, no-one will respect you at Colby. I expect to always feel uncomfortable and to question every move I make. I see no hope in the future,” an anonymous student said in a letter.
Active Minds will be collecting submissions all year long and Myers encourages anyone who has been affected by mental illness to help contribute to the club’s effort. “Mental health is a hard topic to talk about, because it can be really scary, but I think it’s important that we do [talk about it]. I think a lot of people have had experiences with [mental illness] but are reluctant to talk about them because they don’t think that others have had them, too,” Myers said. “A lot of people feel alone that don’t need to.”
Active Minds is a small group and Myers hopes that more students will join. She also hopes to meet with deans at the College and start a peer counseling service. “There can always be more support,” she said. “If this is a conversation on campus people are willing to have, I think people will automatically feel more supported…no one should suffer alone.”