Active Minds reach out to active hearts

By Brandon Desiderio
September 28, 2011

Recently, the American Psychiatriac Association published a new study in the Psychiatric Services Journal, showing that increased education about mental illnesses and available treatments increases the probability of persons in need seeking help. In its very own way, Cabrini is supporting this cause – as well as many others  with its Justice Matters curriculum. In addition to the curriculum are the many social-justice-oriented, co-curricular activities and organizations offered to students.

One such organization, Cabrini’s Active Minds Chapter, met for their first meeting of the school year on Sept. 13.

The non-profit organization was started at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 by then-college student Alison Malmon, whose brother committed suicide as a result of suffering alone through what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder. Active Minds strives to spread awareness of mental health issues and to provide a judgment-free zone for individuals affected by, or supportive of, those with mental illnesses.

The club’s faculty adviser is Dara Herskovits, a counselor in the Counseling and Psychological Services office. To Herskovits, the primary concern among college students and young adults in general is, “If I see a counselor, does that make me crazy?”  In order to counteract this mindset, she says it’s essential to tell students that, “It’s okay to reach out when you need it.”

Cabrini’s chapter of Active Minds is just under 5-years-old and has a lot to offer the Cabrini community. In the past, the club has organized events that have proven very successful, including last year’s “To Write Love On Her Arms” night. Sponsored by a non-profit of the same name, the event featured personal stories of pain and loss, as well as poetry recitations and live music.

The club has also constructed a display of 1,100 handprints in recent years, which remains representative of the number of American college students that commit suicide annually.

In regard to the club’s future plans, discussions and suggestions abounded in the crowded room, which barely contained all 25 new and returning members. Among the presented ideas were a possible “Stomp-Out Stigma Day” in November, which would be held in recognition of stigmas concerning mental health, and attempting to “stomp them out.”

In addition, the club is planning to schedule a “Counselor-out-of-the-Office Day,” which would promote a healthier relationship between the student body and counseling services, ideally making students feel less apprehensive about approaching the campus’ counselors.

The club’s executive board includes Nikia Bell, sophomore marketing major and international business minor, who holds the position of service project coordinator. Bell originally joined Active Minds after starting counseling sessions with Herskovits, who recommended that she join the club. “Once I started,” Bell said, referring to the first few meetings that she attended, “I actually really liked it and appreciated what it stood for.”

Aside from Bell, the board also consists of Vice President Allie Jeter, junior communication and psychology double-major, and President Robyn Suchy, sophomore social work and English double-major.

Both Jeter and Suchy shared personal stories relating back to their own reasons for joining Active Minds, as well as their own struggles along the way. Suchy, in particular, shared a number of her personal trials with the gathered crowd.

“My experiences have sparked my interest in not only the clinical side of mental illness, but the advocacy side as well,” Suchy said, referring to her chosen major of social work, in addition to her continued participation in other campus organizations, such as Body Image Coalition.

The third meeting for Active Minds will be held on Oct. 11 in room 101-E in Iadarola. For more information, contact faculty adviser Dara Herskovits at


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Brandon Desiderio

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