Lyon students work to break the stigma surrounding mental health

BATESVILLE, Ark. — In a time where mental health is a big concern on college campuses, students at Lyon College are trying to educate and change the conversation surrounding it. 

They hope a new organization will help shed light on this prevalent issue. 

It’s called the Active Minds club, which is a organization that has over 500 chapters nationwide and internationally. 

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Active Minds began in 2003 after a junior at the University of Pennsylvania’s brother committed suicide and she realized mental health issues were kept silent on college campuses. 

Now, Lyon College is adding its name to the list and Geneva McCaulley, junior psychology major and president of the Active Minds chapter for Lyon, said they hope it will break that silence in Batesville.

“That’s what we are wanting to do is letting people know that it’s okay to talk about and it’s important to talk about,” she said.

McCaulley said these are conversations that aren’t easy to have. 

“It’s that stigma that surrounds it and people don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to seem weak or they don’t want someone to judge them for struggling with that,” she said.

The mark that surrounds mental health issues on college campuses is widespread. That’s why Diane Ellis, Director of Counseling for Lyon College, said the students are trying to rub that stain away by starting the Active Minds club. 

“I’ve known about Active Minds for a long time, but I just kind of felt like it was time,” she said. 

Ellis said over the years, students have indicated interest in having a peer counseling group, so she forwarded the Active Minds information to students to see the response and within 10 minutes, the replies came in. 

McCaulley was one of the first to respond.

“I’ve always been very passionate about mental health,” she said. 

McCaulley said she personally struggles with anxiety and the pressures of college only made her worries worse.

“I would’ve loved to have a group I could’ve gone to just to find out more about it,” she said. 

McCaulley said between tabling and hosting monthly events, she hopes this will open the door and allow more students to be educated and feel comfortable discussing these issues. 

“I’m just hoping that it’s going to completely change the way people view it on our campus,” she said. 

This perception aspect is what Ellis said she sees students struggle with the most. 

“It’s not a weakness. The students who come to see me have the most courage of anybody that there is,” she said. 

Ellis said she believes these brave students will learn through this new club that they aren’t in this fight alone. 

“People are seeing that it makes sense to talk about it rather than to hide it,” she said. 

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Ellis said depression and anxiety are the top two mental health issues college students struggle with and that 75% of mental health issues begin by the age of 24.

Lyon College is the first private college in Arkansas to host a chapter of the national Active Minds organization.