Active Minds at UPRM

 

 

"The first thing that I believe that should change in society is the stigma that surrounds discussions of mental and emotional health. It is my understanding that once this barrier is torn down, it will be a bit easier for people to begin looking for help without the fear of being judged.”

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that there were a lot of book bags laid down on the grass in front of the Chardón building. A lot of us stopped to look at them and found out they had inspirational and beautiful quotes taped on. This was part of “Send Silence Packing,” an activity organized by the Active Minds association of UPRM on World Suicide Prevention Day. Its founder and president, Stephanie Velar González opened up to us about the reason behind the founding of the Active Minds chapter at Colegio.

 

About the Founder

 

Currently on the last year of her Psychology BS, Velar decided to open an Active Minds chapter at Colegio because she noticed a need to “destigmatize mental health issues.” Velar describes how she often talked with students that expressed the need to seek out psychological help. Yet, when she asked them why they didn’t do it, the common answer was “that they were afraid of what others would think. Others said that since they were not crazy they didn’t want to go to a psychologist but they knew that they needed some type of help.” Velar explains that once she heard the same answers over and over, she decided that someone had to do something to change this. After looking for different ways to solve the issue, she “arrived to the conclusion that opening an Active Minds chapter would be a good start.”

“You Matter”

This year marks the second time that Active Minds did “Send Silence Packing” on World Suicide Prevention Day. Velar explains how “this is a nationwide activity in which every chapter puts book bags in their campus’ quads in order to raise awareness about suicide and mental health issues. The objective of this activity is to open up conversations about mental health related issues in a safe and positive way.”

 

 

 

 

 

Active Minds have also held conferences for suicide awareness and healthy living. Velar further mentions that they “have many more to come, though these are the ones we have done so far.”

Currently, the organization is planning an activity on the stigma that surrounds mental health and how to work towards its destigmatization. They are also working on a conference where they will provide information about alternative forms of therapy and where they will also provide students with small dynamics and techniques related to the alternative method. However, Velar points out that even though they will be offering very useful information in this activity, it is very important to understand that they will only be educating and not giving therapy.

 

“We are never alone”

On a more personal note, Velar has learned a lot from her experiences as founder and president of such a potentially life-changing organization. For starters, she has learned that sometimes one small thing can have a big impact. She has also learned to improvise when it comes to the activities Active Minds organizes; “sometimes it turns out even better than what we planned.” Lastly, Velar learned that there were many members of the Colegio community that were already involved in mental health issues. She describes how this fills her up with joy,  “to see how many people want to help, and all the wonderful ideas that they bring. This always reminds me that we are never alone, we just have to look a bit harder.”

 

It's for everyone

Velar further explains the societal need to actually worry about mental health and not just physical health: “Sadly, most often than not we forget about our mental health, we are always so worried about our physical health, we go to check ups, we do tests and we are constantly on top of it. Nonetheless when it comes to mental health, surprisingly, we hesitate. We do not see going to the psychologist as something healthy, we see it as a bad thing.”

The Active Minds president describes how she too, had similar experiences with mental health. During her first year at Colegio, her anxiety was unmanageable. She knew that she needed to do something about it, but she was hesitant to go to a professional. Thanks to her sister, who talked her into going to a psychologist, she began to go to the appointments and after a while, she began to feel better. “This is why I know that it can happen to anyone, and at times we just need someone we trust to tell us that seeking for help is ok.”

 

You can find out more about Active Minds on their Facebook, Twitter or by sending them an email to: [email protected]