In 2017 Sacramento State became known for hosting the largest collegiate walk in the United States in support of suicide prevention and awareness for their participation in the Out of the Darkness Walk. Just last week we surpassed even last year’s achievement with 1,519 registered walkers and over $16,952 (and counting) raised towards mental health resource efforts.
These numbers represent a year’s worth of education, preparation, and commitment towards raising awareness for suicide prevention and continuing a dialogue on mental health within our Sacramento State community. Leading the way on this mission to erase the stigma surrounding mental health are the students of Active Minds.
Active Minds comprises a facet of the Peer Health Educator internship program through Student Health & Counseling Services. Students selected to serve as PHE’s are provided the opportunity to participate in a year-long academic and hands-on learning program focused on topics ranging from healthy relationships to nutrition. Active Minds interns specifically, demonstrate an expertise on mental health topics including anxiety, depression, and stress. Most notably Active Minds is the driving force behind annual campus events such as Love Your Body Week, Stress Less Therapy Dogs, and the Out of the Darkness Walk.
In an effort to learn more about the incredible work being done on our campus surrounding Mental Health education and awareness I met with Lisa Raimondo, current president of Active Minds. In the excerpts from our interview below Lisa discusses her journey to seeing herself as a leader, the impact of Active Minds on the Sacramento State community, and proactive tips for student self-care.
Question: How did you become involved in Active Minds?
Lisa: I heard about the internship with Student Health and Counseling Services through a few friends and decided to apply. It has been one of the best things I have ever done in college.
Q: What motivates and/or inspires you?
L: The fact that I am still here today inspires me and motivates me to continue. I’ve suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts for the majority of my life but have found inner peace. I am in the best place I have ever been in my life. If you had told me five years ago I would be graduating college, I never would have believed you; I didn’t think I would live this long. Yet here I am graduating college in 20 some days! I cherish every day I am still alive.
Q: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?
L: My current boss, Jen Burton has been monumental in helping be grow both as a person and as a leader. As an intern she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and she gave me the incredible opportunity to become a Student Manager and President of Active Minds. She has given me the support and freedom to think creatively and try new avenues to reach the student population in regards to mental health. I would not be where I am today without her.
Q: What is the best part of your leadership role?
L: Until recently I never saw myself as a leader so I credit my time as President in helping me identify and develop skills I didn’t realize I had. My time in Active Minds has also helped me become more comfortable sharing my story and using my experiences to make others feel less alone in any struggles they may be experiencing. While I wasn’t able to speak on my story at the walk, mine was one of many highlighted at the event. It was incredibly moving to see how many students read my story and could relate and to hear later their emotional reactions to something so personal to me.
Q: What are some of your favorite events that Active Minds hosts?
L: My favorite event by far is the Out of the Darkness Walk. It is amazing to see the students and community come together to break the silence on a topic that is often stigmatized and spread hope to those struggling. I credit the vulnerability and authenticity displayed by President Nelsen and Vice President for Student Affairs, Ed Mills, for the open conversations now taking place at Sac State surrounding mental health and suicide awareness. I also love the Flag Display that we have in the days prior to the walk. We put out 1,100 green flags in the Library Quad to represent the 1,100 college students who die by suicide every year. This is a powerful visual representation of just how big the problem is.
Ultimately, the events we do for Active Minds and Student Health and Counseling Services is a huge team effort. I could not have done it without the people around me. As a team, Vice President Carmen Cannon, Treasurer HurJessica Virk and I do amazing work that I would never be able to do on my own. And while the three of us handled a lot of administrative work behind the scenes (program planning, sending emails, and booking space) the Peer Health Educator interns are truly the ones making an impact. They are the foot soldiers on the ground, doing tabling and talking to students. They are the ones making an impact on our campus, providing resources for the students. I am so proud to be a part of an amazing team.
Q: What are the different types of services offered by Active Minds and the Peer Health Education Team?
L: Active Minds interns are also trained facilitators who present on a variety of mental health topics. Student organizations, staff, and instructors are able to request presentations through the Student Health and Counseling website and select from a variety of programs geared toward health and wellness. Active Minds also hosts “Working Out Your Stress” workshops twice a month on topics ranging from time management to self-love and self-care.
When I asked Lisa for tips on how students can practice self-care and incorporate these habits into their daily routines she offered the following:
- Learning to say no: As student leaders it can feel like no isn’t a word allowed in your vocabulary. But saying no, setting boundaries, and self-advocating when you feel stretched too thin are pivotal to your health and mental wellbeing!
- Putting yourself first: When you’re a student that is double-majoring, or even working more than one job, it’s not always easy to put yourself at the top of your own priority list. As important as your outside commitments are, YOU ARE TOO. Be selfish with your time and think about what YOU need to be successful.
- Being realistic with expectations: With April almost at a close, many of our overly eager New Year’s resolutions or expectations for the semester may require revisiting. No need to feel bad adapting your goals to accommodate for a hectic schedule or increased personal commitments, sometimes life gets in the way. Your mental health is far more important than holding yourself to goals that will cause you to sacrifice your overall health and wellness.
- Self-Care doesn’t have to be a huge: As students it can be difficult to find a free block in your schedule that isn’t already used to study or do homework, but finding meaningful opportunities to practice self-care doesn’t have to take that much time! Next time you’re walking to your next class take a minute to be mindful of your surroundings, treat yourself to your favorite dessert, write in a journal, or listen to your favorite song on repeat. Whatever it is, take time for yourself whenever you can!
- Knowing when to ask for help: While stress can be a normal expectation of the college experience, noticing changes in your mood, appetite, sleep patterns, or thoughts can be signs that something else may be going on. Sacramento State has a variety of free programs available through The WELL ranging from primary care to counseling services. CAPS specifically offers individual, group, and couples counseling with licensed counselors who want to help you navigate life’s challenges.