With a new name, new goals and a new outlook, the group formerly known as To Write Love on Her Arms relaunched this year under the name Active Minds with the aim to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.
Active Minds held its first meeting of the year Sept. 18 in the J.W. Jones Student Union led by President Cayla Vertreese and Secretary Caleb Smith.
Vertreese said she wanted a more inclusive-sounding name for the group, since To Write Love on Her Arms could be perceived as being only for women. She said Active Minds is also more recognized nationally on college campuses and could offer a larger platform to the group.
The name Active Minds comes from a national organization started by Alison Malmon in 2000 at the University of Pennsylvania following the suicide of her brother Brian.
Vertreese, a sophomore, said she’s always been passionate about mental health and has become more involved in advocating for those with mental illnesses through dealing with depression and being hospitalized in November 2018.
“I’ve been there, and so I understand what it’s like to be there,” Vertreese said. “I understand what it’s like to feel like no one understands or feel like no one’s there or feel like I can’t talk to anyone about it because I’m not supposed to. I want to kind of end that.”
In July, Smith lost his brother to suicide, and he said no one should have to feel hopeless or alone like his brother did and families shouldn’t have to experience that grief.
“It’s terrible, and I think that with people, they’re just scared to talk about it and they shouldn’t be,” Smith said. “It should be OK to talk about your feelings because with my brother, he held all that in, like there were no signs whatsoever, and I don’t want to see anyone hold their feelings in and have that happen to them.”
Vertreese said many people who deal with mental health issues feel isolated and unsafe talking about how they feel, which can lead to them hurting themselves.
According to the American College Health Association, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Vertreese said she hopes the group can help students feel less shame about their mental health issues and encourage them to get help.
Smith said the group aims to spread its message by partnering with the Wellness Center to promote its events and partner with organizations on campus in the future to hold events and workshops.
Smith said his short term goals are to build group membership and for Active Minds to be a recognized name and presence on campus. Vertreese said she was pleasantly surprised by the attendance at the first meeting, with around 20-25 people attending.
“That was my biggest thing for this first meeting was making sure people felt comfortable,” Vertreese said. “If we don’t feel comfortable as Active Minds members, we won’t be able to send a message on how to be comfortable and how to open up a conversation about mental health.”