Changing the Conversation.

I just got back from Washington DC.

It was pretty awesome. I saw the Capitol, some awesome museums including the Holocaust Museum, hung out with a gigantic statue of Abraham Lincoln, and watched the sun set over the Mall.

I also ventured to Georgetown Cupcake, the bakery that the reality show DC cupcakes is set in, and let me tell you, there’s a reason that bakery has their own show. BEST. CUPCAKE. EVER.

But why did I venture to our nation’s great capital last week?

Active Minds 10th Mental Health Conference, that’s why!

I’ve posted in here about Active Minds before. I think it’s kind of a big deal, but I’m slightly biased because I’m the president of the organization.

If you don’t know what Active Minds is, here’s the quick run down: we’re the student mental health advocacy group on campus. We’re changing the conversation about mental health, first and foremost by starting the conversation. People don’t like to talk about mental health. We LOVE to talk about it, and we’re here to talk about it in a positive light. Not everyone has a mental health disorder (though 1 in 4 adults do have a mental health disorder) but everyone has mental health, and it’s time that we talk about it and stop the stigma associated with it.

And that was how we kicked off Active Minds National Conference: with a Stomp Out Stigma Walk.

Myself, Erica Beitel (’15), Jes Lawrence (’15) and Kayla Roy (’14) went to Washington DC to stomp out stigma and meet other college students from around the country that were all apart of Active Minds chapters and are just as passionate about mental health as we are.

From left: Erica, Kayla, myself, and Jes!

The conference took place on Georgetown University’s campus, and what a gorgeous campus it was. The conference kicked off with the Stomp Out Stigma Walk, where nearly six hundred student advocates marched through the campus wearing bibs that said 1,100 to commemorate the 1,100 college students that die by suicide each year. Active Minds staff members pointed us in the right direction and held mental health signs, my personal favorite saying, “Stigma causes shame, shame causes silence, silence hurts us all”.

After the stigma walk we dressed up and attended the awards dinner, with a keynote speaker that advocates for mental health in the US government with President Obama. It was a night full of good food with some kids from California who thought that DC was freezing. (It wasn’t. It was in the fifties and much better than Michigan.)

Saturday was a super full day full of ideas about fundraising, meeting people from all over the country, buying Active Minds stuff to support the national office, and going through the Expo. We presented on National Depression Screening Day, a day in October where you may have been approached in Saga by an Active Minds member asking if you wanted to take an anonymous depression screening survey. When I wasn’t telling interested students all about Alma and our program, I got a chance to go to other people’s tables and see what they were doing around the country to change the conversation about mental health.

The four of us went to different small presentations after the Expo: I went to one about campus publicity and member recruitment. Kayla went to the research side of mental health, and Jes went to one of Active Minds Inc’s bureau speakers. We all attended keynote speaker Stacy Pershall, who talked about her experience with borderline personality disorder and anorexia. She was so inspiring that I cried.

It was a whirlwind weekend of ordering in food to our hotel room, stomping out stigma, meeting new friends from other chapters, and writing down great ideas to bring to Alma. I kept remembering my freshman year at Alma when I realized that Active Minds was the student run mental health advocacy group on campus. I hadn’t realized that such a thing existed, and then I went to my first meeting my very first week of school. And here I am, president of Active Minds at Alma College and going to conferences to change the world.

One conversation can change a life. Changing a life can change the world.

It’s time for us to start talking about mental health.

(Active Minds meets on Wednesdays in SAC 104 from 6:30 to 7:00. Please come if you’re interested in joining the nationwide movement to change the conversation. We accept anyone and everyone.)

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