Oswego State discussing forming mental health awareness group

A mental health awareness club, Active Minds, may be coming to the Oswego State campus before the end of this semester. If approved, the club will help shed light on mental illness.

Maria Grimshaw-Clark, a counselor at Oswego State and a clinical social worker for over 15 years, said ridding the stigmatism of mental illness is "a tall order."

Oswego State will be sending two of its counseling staff, Grimshaw-Clark, and Jane LeBlanc to Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., on Nov. 5. Oswego State students Alexa Martin and JoHanna Molascon will be joining them. There they will be networking with other campuses who have Active Minds already in place. They will also be networking with the campus and its Active Minds founder.

"We are seeking people to talk about the how-to’s," Grimshaw-Clark said.

According to the organization’s website Alison Malmon founded Active Minds in 2001, following the suicide of her olderbrother one year earlier. She was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania at the time.Herbrother hid his depression from everyone for three years. In the middle of his senior year, he began receiving treatment for what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, but it was too late.

Malmon wanted to encourage students to seek help earlier when feeling any sort of depression before tragedy struck. She wanted them to have somewhere to turn to without them feeling like they were insane.

"Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone for at least an hour who will listen to you, not pass judgment, accept you, accept where you are at, and not lecture to you?" Grimshaw-Clarke said. "That is really what the counseling center is all about. We get that people are scared by the thought of revealing your true self.

After searching her school and finding no existing groups to bring to campus, Malmon created a model of her own called Open Minds.

After a great first year, Open Minds gained enough support to move on to other campuses, according to the organization’s website. As support blossomed, the national headquarters was established in Washington, D.C., in 2003. The non-profit organization, along with the associated campus chapters, was renamed Active Minds, Inc., to reflect the progress of this group for mental illness awareness put out into the world by students.

"The story on how Active Minds got started hit close to home for me," Molascon, an undergrad and double major in philosophy and psychology at Oswego State, said.

She has been dealing with depression since her freshman year at Oswego State.

"It’s now my fourth year, so it’s been a long road for me," Molascon said.

Many of her family members struggle with mental health problems. She also feels suicide has a stigma against it as well.

"I feel that the stigma against it is awful," Molascon said. "Suicide affects so many students and it doesn’t make sense to have such a stigma against talking about it. Suicide needs to be talked about. People need to know that they aren’t alone with having those thoughts and that there is help for them."

In just over five years, the organization has grown into a respected voice for student mental health advocacy nationwide. It has been featured on CNN, in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other publications.

Active Minds is a federally recognized public charity. Their mission and programming are supported by personal and organizational contributions.

"Active Minds will help to educate people on mental illness, as well as support those who have friends, family and other loved ones who have to cope with mental illness," Grimshaw-Clark said. "It is all about support and help."

The Active Minds constitution is currently being reviewed by Student Association. If approved, it will be a student-run club with the counseling staff acting as advisers only.