Rio Hondo College Club Spotlight: Active Minds

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Rio Hondo College Disabled Students Programs and Services Director, Mark Matsui, Faculty Advisor of Active Minds. (Photo by Armand Santos)

Armand Santos, Staff Writer

Active Minds utilizes the student voice to raise mental health awareness among college students. Its goal is to bring conversations about mental health issues out into the open and combat the stigma of mental illness, encouraging students who need help to seek it early without fear of public perceptions.”

There is more to college than academics, social growth is an important component of the college experience. On-campus clubs play a major role in social development and Rio Hondo college has over 25 active and chartered clubs.

Clubs provide an opportunity for students to meet fellow students that are interested in a common area as well as provide students with programming that allows them to work on mutual goals.

There are club categories to suit a wide variety of interests; Academic, Cultural, Department/Program Based, Faith-Based and Social. The first club in this spotlight series is a Service club called Active Minds.

“Active Minds at Rio Hondo College was founded two and a half years ago,” said Director of Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS), Mark Matsui, Active Minds’ faculty advisor. “Rio Hondo was the recipient of a grant focusing on mental health, and the formation of an Active Minds chapter at Rio was one of the initiatives of that grant,” said Matsui.

Active Minds utilizes the student voice to raise mental health awareness among college students. Its goal is to bring conversations about mental health issues out into the open and combat the stigma of mental illness, encouraging students who need help to seek it early without fear of public perceptions.

According to the 2003 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, stigma refers to a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illness. Stigma is widespread in the United States and other western nations. Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders.

Matsui discussed the history of the club. “The Active Minds chapter at Rio Hondo College is actually part of a larger non-profit organization founded in 2001 by Alison Malmon, who was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania at the time,” explained Matsui.

Malmon’s older brother, Brian, also a college student, had been experiencing depression and psychosis and concealing his symptoms. College is a high-stress environment; couple this with the fact that many illnesses first present at college age, and you have college students at high risk for developing mental health issues. Brian finally sought help, but committed suicide a year and a half into his treatment for what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder.

The loss of her brother and the realization that earlier treatment of his condition could have led him down a different path drove Malmon to to advocate for a change in how mental health issues were viewed and discussed at the University of Pennsylvania.

Malmon recognized that few students were talking about mental health issues though many were affected. Realizing that there was no existing group that she could simply bring to her campus, Malmon created her own model and formed Open Minds.

Support for Open Minds was overwhelming and it opened its second chapter a year later at Georgetown University. By 2003, a national headquarters was established in Washington, DC, and Open Minds incorporated as a non-profit organization, officially renamed Active Minds, Inc., embodying the progressive nature of their unique brand of student advocacy in the mental health movement.

Active Minds now has over 400 campus chapters and is considered the voice of young adult mental health advocacy nationwide.

The Active Minds chapter at Rio Hondo College invites you to join the conversation. Active Minds’ members come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied interests in mental health. Many are students who are living with a mental health disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or an eating disorder.

Others are friends or family of people who live with a disorder; others still are survivors of a friend or family member’s suicide. Many members of Active Minds are simply students with an interest in issues of mental health, including psychology, nursing, or social work students.

Membership is by no means limited to students who live with a mental health disorder; it is inclusive of everyone who wants to be involved. As of this writing, club meeting times and dates have not yet been established.

Anyone interested in learning more can attend an Inter Club Council meeting. These happen every Tuesday from 3 – 5 pm in SS305. Light refreshment is provided. Also be sure to look up Active Minds during the Rio Hondo College Club Rush in the middle quad Sept. 15 – 16.