Active Minds helps students stress less


Alyssa Lambert

One in four Americans ages 18 and older live with a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to Active Minds, a non-profit organization. A group of six individuals came together about a year ago to create an Active Minds club at NMU and it is committed to spreading the message of the non-profit: to change the conversation about mental health.

Active Minds President Andrew Zuniga, a junior sociology major, said the club was started in response to the controversial email from the dean of students urging students not to discuss thoughts about self-harm with their peers.

The club aspires to work with the university to de-stigmatize mental illness and allow people to feel more confident discussing mental health.

Stress Less Week, which will be April 3 to 7 this year, is Active Minds’s biggest event, focusing on the little things people can do to make others aware of mental health conditions. This is the second year the event has existed, providing one event per day to de-stress during a college student’s busiest time, between mid-terms and finals.

At 7 p.m. April 3, Stress Less Week begins with a showing of “Good Will Hunting,” the story of a janitor working at M.I.T. who is living with an attachment disorder stemming from childhood abuse.

Robin Williams, who plays Damon’s therapist that helps him cope with his ailment, serves as a theme for the entire week.

“[Williams] played a big part in mental health and trying to de-stigmatize it,” Zuniga said. “We want to honor that.”

On Tuesday small sheets of paper will be available to people who want to write words of affirmation and post them throughout Jamrich to give people a quick tidbit of encouragement on people’s way to class. A study done in 2013 at Lake Superior State University found that coloring pre-drawn patterns can significantly reduce a college student’s stress and anxiety levels, according to the Science and Education Publishing website, which is why Active Minds will be handing out coloring sheets and little packets of crayons in Jamrich on Wednesday.

“It’s a simple thing we can do. Sitting between classes, maybe between exams even, that can help a lot,” Zuniga said.

The NMU Counseling Center will be presenting about the services they offer and how their office can help in any type of situation at 6 p.m. Thursday in 2317 Jamrich.

On Friday Active Minds will set up a station to paint worry stones, which can help relieve anxiety. These rocks have an oval indentation that is calming when rubbed. Zuniga said he thinks this year’s Stress Less Week won’t necessarily be better than last year’s, but promises it will be different because they are focusing on making people happy, even if just for a moment.

“It’s literally finding the little things we can do to help people de-stress throughout the day,” Zuniga said.

For more information, check out NMU Active Minds on Facebook or attend their weekly meetings at 5 p.m. on Mondays in 2309 Jamrich.