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Friday, May 24, 2024

New organization educates students about mental health

One out of every 12 college students has thought about suicide and planned a way to do it, according to Active Minds, a student-based mental-health advocacy program.

Active Minds, an organization dedicated to the psychological health of college students, has embarked on a mission at UF to reduce these types of statistics.

"We are trying to get rid of the negative stigma of mental illness and educate people on it so they can openly talk about issues," said Anitha Joseph, treasurer of the UF chapter of Active Minds.

Uninformed people are often quick to judge others as crazy when they hear anything about a mental problem, Joseph said. Many don't realize that those kinds of remarks could be just enough to make someone unstable who otherwise would not be.

"Many people don't know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students because it just isn't talked about as much as car accidents, which are the primary cause," said Tiffiny Trentalange, president and co-founder of the UF chapter.

Trentalange has battled depression since seventh grade and witnessed mental illnesses in her family, but she grew up in an environment in which mental illness was not taboo.

Her parents warned her early on that this was not the case for all families.

"It was easy for me to hide it in high school," she said. "But when I moved to college, there was no way I could keep it from my roommates, who would see me when I was upset or taking my prescriptions."

By educating students and promoting the discussion of mental health, Active Minds is a great form of mental illness prevention, said Anca Mirsu-Paun, an employee at the counseling center at Peabody Hall. Mirsu-Paun works closely with the group's adviser, Wayne Griffin, and is a trained counselor.

"Students talking to students can be very beneficial," she said. "Ultimately, it goes back to the idea that you don't have to deal with something like this yourself."

Through biweekly meetings, workshops, seminars, group activities and other events, the organization aims to educate and inform people about mental health.

The group is currently striving to gain Student Government funds and expand.

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"We are not therapists," Joseph said. "We are here to educate you so that you know where to go and so that you know how to help someone you love."

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