Active Minds petitions for mental health orientation programming

Meghan Morris, Reporter

A Northwestern Active Minds petition for a mental health Essential NU during Wildcat Welcome has earned widespread attention from students since its creation earlier this month.

The group created a Facebook campaign on Nov. 16 to support its submission to the Associated Student Government’s 10k Initiative, which will provide $10,000 for a student idea to improve NU. The proposal has garnered an increasing level of support in light of the growing debate surrounding campus mental health resources.

NU Active Minds’ spokeswoman Shaina Coogan said new students need a mental health ENU to understand the varied resources on campus should they or their friends need assistance.

“The fact that there’s not an orientation program that shows resources on campus was unbelievable to us,” the Weinberg senior said. “It seems like students have to figure it out for themselves.”

Coogan, a former Daily staffer, said students are directed toward counseling and other services during emotionally-triggering times but lack understanding of how to access care centers on a day-to-day basis.

“It seems like other schools do a little bit more in publicizing their campus resources,” she said. “Regardless of whether or not you’re diagnosed with a mental illness, college is a very stressful place.”

More than 500 students have indicated that they have or intend to submit NU Active Minds’ proposal for the Essential NU by joining the organization’s Facebook event.

SESP junior Billy Choo, a self-described mental health advocate, said students want to engage in conversations about mental health but lack the resources.

“You can’t say that the community should come together without the agency to do so,” he said. “There are skills behind mental health discussions, such as active listening, that need to be learned.”

University chaplain Tim Stevens said Fall Quarter’s two student deaths and subsequent discussion about NU mental health prompted an examination of the Wildcat Welcome programming.

“There’s a question about effectiveness because if new students are here for 10 minutes, and we start throwing all this information at them, how much will they retain?” he said. “Folks are starting to talk about sustained efforts throughout the year.”

He emphasized the variety of services offered on campus, whether at Counseling and Psychological Services or pastoral counseling through the chaplain’s office.

“We need to do a whole lot more of marketing what’s available,” he said.

Coogan said regardless of the outcome of the 10k Initiative, she is happy the group has contributed to mental health discussions on campus.

“Even if we don’t win, this got students thinking about this issue and talking about the importance of an orientation program and of maintaining mental health,” she said.

Proposal submission closes at the end of Reading Week, and voting on top ideas will take place during Winter Quarter.