Forget sororities and fraternities, the new club many college students are joining are so-called “mental health clubs.” The American Psychological Association reports mental health issues have been climbing since the 1990s, with depression and anxiety being the most pervasive. The good news, however, is more students are seeking help. The bad news is those increasing numbers have left many colleges scrambling to provide adequate services. Mental health experts warn that the unmet need for mental-health care among students is a significant health issue.
Students themselves have stepped up to fill the gap with peer-run mental-health clubs and organizations. The approach appears to be paying off, a new study finds. Researchers conducted a massive online survey that asked questions about mental health awareness and whether students were aware of a program called Active Minds. Active Minds is a national organization that offers organizing and support for student-run mental-health clubs on college campuses. The organization was created by Alison Malmon after the suicide of her older brother. With over 450 groups nationwide, and another 50 groups at the high school level, Malmon was very encouraged by the study’s findings. She told the Washington Post, “starting a conversation about mental health on a student-to-student level could change our approach to mental health, change the landscape and climate and now we have the data to prove it.”
The group offers workshops like “Speak Your Mind,” where students are trained to share their stories about addressing their personal mental health needs. Experts point to the peer-to-peer aspect as being integral to the program’s success.
It has certainly worked out well for the program’s co-president, Zoe Howland. The Ithaca College student said she came into college without any direction and now wants to go into mental-health advocacy for her career.