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Oak Leaves

February  24, 2017

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Manchester Introduces Mental Health Club


Jensen Lassiter

It was a passion for de-stigmatizing mental illness that led two girls to organize the first mental health club on campus. 

First year Anna Steele and sophomore Mariah Fleming are the leaders of Advocates of The Mind, or A.T.M, the mental health club. "I sort of got the idea last semester,” Steele began. “I asked Mariah if it would be cool to have a club that worked together to discuss mental illness and prevent suicide. I did something similar like this in high school. We got together to plan events that focused on how our society stigmatizes mental illness. We wanted to increase awareness and create a safe space, so I figured, why not." 

They began the process of turning their ideas into a club during the last few days of the January Session. Steele and Fleming worked with Counseling Services, and they began trying to fit their new club in at the Activity Fair. Although they weren't officially a club yet, they promoted their ideas by displaying a bold sign stating, "Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention.” 

While neither of the girls are psychology majors—Steele is a Bio-Chem major, and Fleming is a Sociology major—they both have a deep passion for helping and discussing mental health. "I want people to know that they're not alone, and that there are resources available,” Fleming said. “A lot of people don't even know that we have a counseling service! It's also important to help teach others about mental health."

Fleming serves as the vice president. "It began as Anna's idea, so it was only fair that she be the President,” she said. “She took the steps to make the club. I accepted the VP position because she asked me to.”

When developing the norms of the group, they decided on a few rules that would help the group transition into a cohesive club atmosphere. "One rule is that everyone here is in a safe space," Fleming said. “The club is an area where anyone can come and feel safe without being judged. We're trying to create another safe environment for students to escape to." 

Steele added: "I hope the club makes everyone feel more safe on campus and allows others to be themselves freely. I want people to see other people for who they are and not their mental illness." 

While discussing their hopes for the club, they also developed some general goals. "One of our goals is to be able to connect students with resources such as counseling services and just regu-lar information,” Fleming said. “We want to give students a chance to share their experiences with someone who wants to listen, judgment free!

"When we had our table at the activities fair, many people that were signing up said they had wanted a club like this on campus since they first got here," she continued. “So we did. I re-ally hope this helps people."

Meetings are held on Wednesday evenings from 6–8 p.m. in the SAC. "We hope to do stuff to de-stigmatize and inform others of mental illnesses," Steele said. “We hope to eventually plan related activities and VIA type of events.”

Fleming added: "We're very excited about Discussion Day this year, since it just so happens to involve mental illness."

The girls recognize that college students can be affected by mental illness. "Mental illnesses might not affect just you, but it could be affecting your best friend or other loved ones," she con-tinued. "Spreading awareness is so very important and we hope that this is something everyone can take away, not just from Discussion Day or the club, but in general."