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Sophomore promotes mental health through new student group

September 17th, 2015

 

 

Meet the newest club on campus: Active Minds. This club is a national organization that works to end the stigma towards mental illness, with chapters located across the nation at many universities. This fall, sophomore Rachael Chahoud is bringing a chapter to John Carroll.

 

Megan Dzurec, the coordinator for health promotion and wellness at John Carroll, will be the faculty advisor for Active Minds.

 

Currently, those who suffer from eating disorders, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or other mental health problems are subject to stigmatization. Chahoud believes that individuals with mental illness should not be excluded from everyday life because of their reality.

 

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“When we see someone that looks different or acts different, we automatically have a different view of them,” said Chahoud. “[Active Minds] wants to eliminate that. Every person should be treated equally, regardless of whether they have depression or Down Syndrome or anything else.”

 

Chahoud’s goal through bringing Active Minds to JCU is to promote mental health awareness through educating the campus community and by creating a group that is open to all students. She explains most groups on campus only involve a certain type of people. For example, the Little Theater Society consists of people who enjoy theatre. The pep band only includes musicians.

 

Active Minds unites all students with the common interest of promoting mental health. The group aims to break down barriers between cliques and bring students together.

 

“John Carroll tries to promote diversity and wants everyone to come together,” said Chahoud, “but it’s hard when you have all these different cliques.”

 

Active Minds plans to have a diverse array of activities on campus. One event Chahoud would like to have is a lecturer to educate students on mental health. She mentioned one speaker, Cedric Brown, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 13 years old. Since his diagnosis, Brown has overcome his disorder and written three books. Chahoud would like him to visit John Carroll and tell his story. “[Brown] goes to different colleges and talks about his life, how he got through it, and how it affected him. And now he tells us how we can get through it,” said Chahoud.

 

“Besides speakers, we would like to have late night programs, a cookout, and a dance or something like that,” said Chahoud. “My main priority is to make everyone feel like they have a home. I want everyone to feel welcome and to enjoy being at John Carroll…I want to show that these people have a place to go and people to go to if they need help.” Overall, Chahoud wants Active Minds to be an all-inclusive club that promotes mental health while hosting fun activities for all students.

 

When asked about her inspiration for starting Active Minds at JCU, Chahoud spoke from personal experience. Chahoud explained that she has suffered from depression since she was 13 years old. Her high school years were difficult and she felt alone.

 

However, Chahoud has changed her mindset and wants to lead a positive, fulfilling life. “I want to give back. I want to show people the stuff that I went through so they don’t have to go through it too…I don’t want people to suffer the same way I did,” she said. Chahoud wants her personal experience to help other people solve their own problems.

 

Chahoud started promoting her club via social media in July. She posted a message on the JCU Class of 2018 and Class of 2019 Facebook pages explaining her plans for Active Minds and received many positive responses. Also, a friend of Chahoud’s is a resident assistant, and she sent an email to her residents regarding Active Minds.

 

So far, 60 students have signed up to be part of the organization. One student who showed interest in the group, sophomore Emily Hansen, believes that this club can have a positive impact on campus. “I’ve known people with body image problems and people that have gone through depression and other things, so the idea of people getting together to help them sounds like such a great thing,” Hansen said.

 

Veronica Zielinski, a junior who plans on joining Active Minds, also thinks that this club will be beneficial to many people. “This club is a good opening to give a voice to people who may not have had one in the past,” she said. “I’m excited to get involved with it and I think that it will have a great impact.”

 

Sophomore Anastasia Dines strongly supports Active Minds as well. “Active Minds will be a phenomenal club that will raise awareness of the importance of mental health, positivity, and support for others,” she said. “This is to show people that there is support and there are people who care about them and would be helpful to them in spite of the stresses and challenges they face in their life.”

 

John Carroll will take several weeks to review Chahoud’s plans before they officially approve the club. She plans on having the first meeting as soon as the club is approved. “This is a great club,” said Chahoud. “You will constantly be helping someone, whether you know it or not.”