The University of Nevada, Reno is one of many universities across the country that has been dedicated to providing enough mental health services to students on campus. Recent reports from the National Alliance on Mental Illness have found that an estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — live with a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Currently, a group of faculty and students at UNR are now taking steps to add another student resource, a chapter of the national organization Active Minds.
Active Minds is a club that aims to empower students to change the perception of mental health on college campuses. The club advisor, Shane Carter and several organizations on campus, such as the counseling and housing departments, have been working with Active Minds Inc. to acquire official chapter recognition from ASUN. Individuals in the Reno community have also helped, like JK Belz & Associates, a private funder who provided initial funding for the UNR chapter.
Kim Palchikoff, a student intern at the Disability Resource Center on campus working with the new club, suffers from bipolar disorder. After struggling through her first experience in college and having to drop out, Palchikoff knows firsthand how important it is for students with all kinds of mental health problems to have the support they need.
“Active Minds is much more than just another club on a college campus,” Palchikoff said. “…UNR is a reflection of the big problem nationally.”
The DRC reported in the fall of 2016 that UNR serviced 636 students with some type of psychological disability, a dramatic increase from the 224 students reported in fall of 2011.
Doctor Carol Scott, the Assistant Director of the Student Health Center, has been part of the team working to bring Active Minds to UNR.
Since she began working at the university in 1994, Dr. Scott has also noticed an increase of students seeking help for a spectrum of mental health issues, and has witnessed the additional of services on campus to help these students including counseling services, and part-time psychiatrists on staff at the Health Center.
“In the last ten years, it seems like we have had more students with mental health issues, but that may be because there is not so much of a stigma to seek care for them” Scott said.
Though the stigma built up around mental health may be lessening, it is still and important issue said Scott.
Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon when she was a junior at The University of Pennsylvania, following the unexpected suicide of her older brother, Brian who suffered from depression and psychosis. It was on March 24, 2000 that Brian ended his life and Alison found the drive to help students like her brother.
After failing to find any existing clubs or organizations, Alison started what was then known as Open Minds which after years of success became Active Minds Inc., a non-profit run by Alison in 2003. There are now over 400 campus chapters across the country.
Dr. Carol Scott also stated the importance of having programs and resources like Active Minds to help suffering students earlier rather than later, before the problem becomes worse.
“I always tell my patients, mind and body, everything’s connected,” said Scott, “It’s important to take care of the person as a whole”.
The new club is currently running a “No Stigma Selfie” campaign on Facebook. The campaign challenges people to print out a sign saying, “No Stigma Nevada” and take selfies with people around campus to spread awareness. There will also be a free luncheon on March 16 for people interested in learning more.
“[Active Minds] is a place where students can help students, where people can go to avoid isolationism, and a place where they can do activities such as anti-stigma campaigns,” Palchikoff said.
Both Palchikoff and Dr. Scott emphasized that this is one more step in the right direction to ending the stigma built up around mental health, and helping students thrive in the college community.
Emily Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.