Despite recent efforts to decrease stigmatization, mental health remains a touchy subject, especially on college campuses.
Students are often placed under enormous pressure, and not always given a proper outlet to express their emotional needs. Yet, groups such as Active Minds at Kirkwood Community College strive toward decreasing the negative presumptions about mental health by bolstering safe and open conversations about the topic.
On Thursday, Sept. 8, Active Minds displayed 1,100 white flags on Kirkwood’s main campus, with the number of flags symbolizing the number of college student suicides nationwide per year.
The white flags are Kirkwood’s spin on the National Active Mind Organization’s Send Silence Packing display, where backpacks are used as a representation of student suicides. Despite using a different medium, the message remains clear: There must be change.
Positioned between Benton and Linn Hall, the display visualized the tragic reality of many college campuses. Furthermore, the display sparked hopeful talk of change and gave students the opportunity to engage in honest conversations about mental health awareness. The allotted time and location allowed students to not only reminisce about those lost but look forward to a new future where students’ mental health is no longer overlooked.
The hopeful aspirations of students regarding mental health awareness embody the mission of Kirkwood’s Active Minds group. According to Angie Ziesman Weiler, the advisor of Active Minds, the group’s main goal is to, “Open up the conversation about mental health and get people talking about it more, increasing help-seeking behaviors.”
She added, by promoting conversations the group tries to normalize the subject, making mental health care equivalent to any other form of medical care, and visiting counselors or other professionals is, “just a thing you do to take care of yourself.”
Displaying flags is the first of Active Mind’s many planned events this year, yet its powerful message makes it immensely important. Groups such as Active Minds, and their impactful displays, can potentially help students suffering in silence.
Through honest, open conversations about mental health, stigmatization may potentially lower, and students will feel safe asking for help if needed.
Currently, Kirkwood offers students numerous resources for counseling and crisis help. For more information about student counseling or to make an appointment call 319-398-5540, and if in a crisis contact the Foundation 2 Crisis Line 800-332-4224.
Writer | Photographer