Mental health club provides safe space for students

Written By Matt Petras, Staff Writer

A mental health awareness group on campus called Active Minds is still in its planning stages following its recognition as an official club at the first United Student Government (USG) meeting of this semester.

“Particularly on college campuses, being aware of mental illness and having a safe space… is really important,” Treasurer Beth Bogolub said. This student group is one of over 400 Active Mind chapters around the country. Students at Point Park decided to get involved after Taffie Bucci, a counselor at the university, tried to get some students she knew involved through an email sent out at the end of the Spring 2016 semester. Bucci now advises the club, she said in a phone interview Monday.

There aren’t any hard plans set up thus far, President Emelina López said in a phone interview Friday. She hopes to host regular meetings centered around open discussion among members but is currently trying to find a day and time that will work best.

Active Minds is not an entirely new club. During the Fall 2016 semester the club operated, albeit it was considerably under the radar. Throughout the semester, López and other executive members hacked away at the necessary requirements for official recognition, such as drafting a constitution for approval.

At the same time, the club was operated on an independent basis. Before the schedule eventually devolved to meeting every other week, the club maintained weekly meetings every Monday at 5 p.m., according to López.

“I think the meetings were really helpful for those of us who were there,” senior photography major Becca Painter said.

Painter was one of a tight-knit group of around five or six members, according to López. López would pick topics for the meetings and allow the group to take charge in discussion. The group also allowed students to unload and talk about the good and the bad in each of their weeks, according to Painter.

“It was nice to have a group of people who will pay attention to you every week,” Painter said.

This semester, López hopes to pick a day and time that will accommodate a larger group of students. Many students showed interest but couldn’t make the meetings, López said. Taylor DeLay, the vice president of the club, was among students who found it difficult to make it to meetings.

López also hopes to host campus-wide events, such as something to coincide with finals week, a high-stress time for many students.

López, Bogolub and DeLay were not friends before Bucci’s email encouraged them to get involved.

“It was interesting to be all of a sudden put together,” López said. “Coming to agreements wasn’t hard.”

This trio of women are no strangers to the issues at hand. Bogolub suffers from depression, for example.

“It’s been a part of my life for a long time,” she said.

While López is currently running a club about mental health issues, she didn’t always have that awareness, she said. When she began college, she started to suffer from seasonal depression. Whenever a loved one recommended she talk to a counselor, she initially did not like the idea.

“There is nothing wrong with me,” López remembered saying. “I don’t need that.”

López realized the error of that line of thinking when she actually received counseling, however. The lesson she learned influences how she operates the club today.

“It’s okay to talk about it,” López said. “You’re not alone.”