Student Leader Promotes Awareness of Mental Illness

You don’t have to suffer in silence.

That’s the core message of OSU’s chapter of Active Minds: a peer-to-peer organization devoted to erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness among college students. It’s one of several clubs where students like scholarship recipient Rikki Redhead work to make a healthier campus community.

“I grew up in an extremely rural area and I’ve known a lot of people who have struggled with mental illness. That inspired me to want to help,” the junior psychology major says. “People don’t reach out to get help because the stigma is so strong.”

The stakes are high. Among college students nationally, untreated mental illness – including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders – is associated with lower grades and higher probability of dropping out of school. And suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

To raise awareness of these issues, and of the resources available through OSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, Active Minds sponsors a variety of campus activities. Last Valentine’s Day, the group organized an event called Love is Louder, inviting students to write what they believe love can overcome on the palms of their hands.

“We’re trying to spread the message that even though life can be tough, love is always stronger,” Rikki says.

An officer with Active Minds, Rikki is a recipient of OSU’s Presidential Scholarship, awarded to outstanding students from Oregon. Without scholarship support, she wouldn’t have been able to attend college at all, much less have time to be involved in campus activities, she says. She notes that scholarships have a major impact on reducing students’ stress levels and improving their ability to graduate.

“College is stressful enough, but I have friends who are so worried about finances that it becomes all they can think about,” she says. “I will forever be grateful for the scholarship support I’ve received.”

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