Active Minds Heal Hearts

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Photo by Michelle Davidson

At the heart of one of Jacksonville University’s newest organizations is a simply stated yet ambitious goal: to change the way students respond to mental health issues.

Active Minds promotes accurate information about stress, depression, eating disorders and serves as a liaison between students and the mental health community. Through over 350 chapters on college campuses nationwide, the organization advocates suicide prevention and empathetic social environments.

Junior Jairid Pacileo said he was planning activities for Suicide Prevention Week when an Active Minds representative contacted him. The organization’s message inspired Pacileo to start a chapter at JU.

“There’s a stigma around depression and eating disorders so students don’t want to seek help or they don’t know where to find help,” Pacileo said, a film and sociology major. “It’s important to know that there are resources to help us and we’re not alone.”

The message is timely. According to Active Minds’ official website, one in four Americans above 18 years old has a diagnosable mental health disorder and 1,100 college students die by suicide every year.

Speaking on behalf of the JU Student Counseling Center, club advisor Steven Montesinos, M.A., called the new student organization “an amazing extension of what we do.”

“I’m sure Active Minds is extremely proud to know JU is part of their family,” Montesinos said.

The club met for the first time on Oct. 11 in order to discuss future meeting times and activities. Events will seek both to reduce student stress and to create an open environment for discussing mental health.

“My main goal for the semester is to get a puppy petting zoo,” said Pacileo. “People really miss their pets.”

Only six students joined Pacileo and Montesinos at the initial meeting, but they freely shared their enthusiasm for Active Minds and their reasons for becoming members. Most of the students, like sophomore Steven Rodriguez, felt drawn to the organization because of personal or family experiences.

“I’m going through a dark period of my own,” said Rodriguez. “I’m lucky to be here.”

“I’m a gospel rapper and I love pulling people out of a funk,” said Angel Buckmire, a sophomore. “They can do anything they put their mind to. It’s not about what people tell them they can do. I want to reach out to people who don’t have a voice.”

Jon Martel, a freshman, said that his mother’s experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made him want to get involved, but none of the organizations he researched were represented at JU.

“I didn’t know what to do to help,” Martel said. “When I saw Jairid trying to put this [club] together, I thought, Why not try it?”

While attending the University of North Florida, Montesinos was one of three students involved in the founding of an Active Minds chapter on campus. As advisor of the JU chapter, he continues to prize the organization’s message of empathy and understanding.

“Just making someone feel comfortable about talking about mental health is a success,” Montesinos said. “Don’t measure success by the number of events you put on but on the impact you have.”

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