Active Minds group seeks to change mental health conversation

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By Brianna Patt | Staff Reporter

Former student and current counselor Caleb Barnet is striving to lessen the emotional burdens that students on this campus often silently carry by starting a local chapter of non-profit organization, Active Minds.

According to Barnet, the inspiration for forming an Active Minds chapter at A&M-Commerce was to create a community where visible sufferings are not the only ones that are viewed as extremely detrimental.

When some students express personal mental health concerns, they can be brushed off by others as temporary effects of stress that can be tackled by the student putting more effort and time into their school work. The problem is that compartmentalizing these emotions can simply add to the mental strain.

“When a student breaks their arm or has a 104-degree fever, the immediate response drilled into them is to seek professional, medical attention,” said Barnet. “When it comes to mental health, however, students are at a loss for what to do because oftentimes mental health is portrayed as a lie, non-existent, or a weakness. I think it is important to begin an Active Minds chapter on campus to reinforce that mental health is real but also that there is help.”

A crucial detail about this organization is that it is a way for students to speak with other students who can provide them with the resources they need to get help. Often a teacher or counselor, or most adults are not the ones that students confide in because they may not be entirely sure they will understand.

“More often than not, we tend to evaluate our situation by the feedback that we receive from others,” said Barnet. “This means that when a student is facing a mental health concern, he/she/they will first approach a trusted friend. What I hope for is that Active Minds can empower students with appropriate ways to listen to mental health concerns when they are brought-up as well as empower students with an awareness of mental health resources.”

For students on this campus to receive the help of their peers in contacting these resources, the students suffering must understand that what they are experiencing is not unusual and very much real. Students who wish to help their fellow students are also encouraged; combating mental health takes a team of those understand mental health concerns/resources.

“I want students to know that help-seeking is a sign of strength, not weakness,” said Barnet. “Anyone interested in helping combat mental health stigma is encouraged to get involved in Active Minds.  Students involved in Active Minds do not provide counseling; rather they are aware of mental health resources around them and help others connect with those resources.”

To join Active Minds, contact Caleb Barnet via his email address [email protected] . To receive counseling, call them at 903-886-5145 or by visiting the counseling center in Halladay Building, Room 204.