If you have been spending any time recently with Bates students, you have likely heard the echoes of the dreaded March anxieties and blues. Winter appears interminable, the stress from finals is undeniable, and the end of school year is in sight, but not quite close enough to touch.
But beyond these shared experiences of boredom and stress, college campuses face an unprecedented epidemic of mental illness, and student suicide has become a legitimate and pervasive threat. Bates club Active Minds is determined to counter these deeply troubling and tragic realities. I spoke with the club’s future co-president, Ted Burns ‘19, to get a better grasp of the group’s mission.
Madeline Polkinghorn (MP): What is Active Minds?
Ted Burns (TB): Active Minds is a student-led group on campus that focuses on raising awareness for and erasing the stigma around mental illness, but it’s also about being conscious of mental health in general.
MP: Why did you join Active Minds?
TB: I joined Active Minds, because of my own experiences with mental illness, but also just on a whim when I was wandering around the Club Fair in September. At the first meeting, I didn’t know anyone, but the environment was so fun and positive that I haven’t missed a meeting to this day! Everyone in the club is awesome.
MP: What kind of things do you guys do in Active Minds?
TB: We meet once a week for 30 minutes to chat and check in with each other in a very relaxed setting, but we also use that time to plan events on campus. Some examples of events we’ve done were the Self-Care Fair and the Share Your Story events. Both had great receptions and were really rewarding to be a part of.
MP: Do you have any personal connections to mental health?
TB: I’ve been taking medication for anxiety since 2015, and mental illness runs in my family. Needless to say, it has had a huge impact on who I am is a person. I also feel very strongly about getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness. It should be regarded no differently than the flu or a broken bone: It is an affliction that requires treatment.
MP: Why should Bates students join Active Minds?
TB: Bates students should join this club, because it has really cool people in it, and it’s very low-key. Even if you have no experience with mental illness, you should join, because you can help others who do in very achievable ways. My favorite reason to be a part of Active Minds is the fact that I’ve gotten to know great people that I never would’ve been able to meet otherwise.
MP: What are your future plans for Active Minds?
TB: I’ll be co-president of the club next year with Sara Dardis, and I’m really excited about the opportunities! We’re already talking about teaming up with Filmboard to start a discussion about depictions of mental illness in media, organizing panels with professors, as well as continuing to do all the excellent things we already do.
MP: What has been your most meaningful experience with the club?
TB: My most meaningful experience with Active Minds was when I shared my experience with anxiety at the Share Your Story event. It was incredibly moving to share such an personal story to a room full of people who wanted to listen, and the possibility that hearing my story might’ve helped someone made it that much more special. It was inspirational to hear others’ stories as well.