Active Minds host annual Step Against Stigma


Photo by Rachel Colwell

Active minds host their annual Step Against Stigma to help raise awareness of mental illness. Hailey Mills and Ciera Afrank greet people as they make lanterns.

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

Despite the looming threat of rain last Saturday, Active Minds marshalled students and faculty to Step Against Stigma and raise awareness for mental health issues.
Starting at 5 p.m. the club occupied the Willow Bowl, playing music and running booths with an eclectic blend of activities.
There were some fairly involved activities, like the poster board that was divided into two halves—one filled with negative qualities for the participants to cross out and a blank half for the opposite of the selected word to be written down in its place. Others were simpler, like the read-aloud station or the packets of coloring-book pages.
One booth, run by the Optimists club, had a Jenga tower built out of oversized blocks. Each block had an emotion written on it, like frustration or joy, and it challenged participants to name a time when that emotion was felt.
The walk itself lasted from 6:30 p.m. to around 8:00 p.m., allowing the walkers to enjoy the luminary display set up in the Willow Bowl by other members of the club. The luminaries, paper bags filled with a cup of sand and an electronic candle, were decorated by club members and participants as a memorial for those affected by mental illness.
But what’s the point? Why do any of this?
“One in four Americans has some kind of mental illness. They live, work and go to school with us every day and we may not even know it. However, many people are afraid to talk about mental health issues or seek help because it means you’re ‘crazy,’” said junior Abby Stewart, current secretary of Active Minds. “By starting the conversation about mental health issues and educating those around us, we can reduce the stigma that’s associated with it and encourage those in need to seek help and get better.”
Due to a combination of lousy-looking weather and its proximity to the end of the semester, the event was not as well-attended as the organizers hoped. This was the second year that the Step Against Stigma walk was held, and the club brought a lot of experience forward.
One thing that improved was out-of-club involvement—the previous event was almost exclusively run by Active Minds, while this year featured contributions from multiple other organizations that geared their presentations towards positivity and mental health from within their own majors.
Next year, the club plans on holding the walk closer to the start of the fall semester, in part to avoid the end-of-year doldrums, but also so that the event can serve as a big opener for the school year instead of a closer.
“The upcoming executive board is excited and motivated to make this less of an ‘end-of-the-year’ wrap-up and more of a kick-off to our year of stigma fighting,” Stewart said.
For those interested in learning more about the group in general, is the website to visit. To connect with the WSC chapter, look up the Facebook group “Active Minds at Wayne State College.”