By Lauren Albright ′16
Active Minds is a nonprofit organization with chapters on college campuses across the country dedicated to increasing students’ awareness of mental health issues. This year, Mark Farley ’16 started a chapter of Active Minds at Rhodes College. A transfer from Washington and Lee, Farley wanted to provide a safe place for students to start talking about mental health. The chapter has gained a substantial number of members already, and they are making an impact on campus.
The events sponsored by Active Minds for National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week, which occurs every year around this time, is one example. In the past, advertising at Rhodes for Awareness Week was minimal, and many students didn’t know about it. Farley wanted to use his position in Active Minds to change that.
Farley and others began planning for this week last semester, with their biggest event being a three-mile fund-raising walk through campus and Overton Park. On the morning of the walk, 180 people participated, raising more than $8,000 for NEDA. The money raised through the walk goes to various organizations and counseling centers that NEDA feels need the most funding. (A list of places that NEDA sent money to this year can be found at http://nedawareness.org.)
The second event, held the following night, was a lecture from Stacy Nadeau, who started the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Sallie Handley ‘15, a student who works in the counseling center, helped to plan this event, among others, with Farley. The lecture was a huge success, with an audience of more than 500 students.
The next night, a lecture from Rhodes psychology professor Dr. Rebecca Klatzkin was held to discuss the relationship between binge eating disorders and stress. Attendance included a crowd of both faculty members and students. The event was similar to a discussion-based class, where students and faculty could ask Professor Klatzkin questions about various topics and issues based on the research presented about binge eating disorders and stress.
The final event of Awareness Week was a student panel of volunteers who gave testimonials about their personal experiences with eating disorders. Students who volunteered to speak went through the counseling center to be sure that they were ready to share their stories. More than 100 students, representing all class years and every facet of campus, attended. Says Farley, “This is the first time, to my knowledge, that something like this has happened on campus. We were looking for students willing to have open discussions about their experiences, and I think it brings us one step closer to getting involved in the discussion about eating disorders.”
Overall, Awareness Week was a great success, and the work that Active Minds has done has significantly increased awareness about mental health and eating disorders on campus. If you would like more information about the organization and ways to get involved, contact Mark Farley at email@example.com.