Author: Charlotte Umanoff
Representatives from Active Minds at Oxy received the Uniting Voices Award from the national Active Minds organization at the Active Minds National Mental Health on Campus Conference at the University of California, Irvine Nov. 13–15.
The award — given to the Occidental chapter for its 2014 petition to increase diversity and support for students of color at Emmons Wellness Center — is designed to “recognize a chapter that has succeeded in building diverse coalitions of individuals, organizations and other partners on campus in order to break barriers and build understanding of Active Minds and our mission across the board,” according to the Active Minds website.
The club’s petition, a joint effort of Active Minds at Oxy and the Student Wellness Advisory Council (SWAC), was designed to address critical shortcomings in Emmons’ mental health services — specifically pertaining to the well-being of students of color. It was sent to President Jonathan Veitch and the administration Feb. 10, 2014.
While not created with the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E.), the petition addressed C.O.D.E.’s demand for the specific training and hiring of “medical, psychological, and nutritional staff, who are well-versed in the specific needs of students of color,” according to executive board member Gillian Binnie (senior).
Since the delivery of the petition, Emmons has implemented a peer mentoring program, and mandatory self-care education has been worked into Occidental’s Orientation curriculum via a presentation put on by Active Minds, according to Matt Calkins, director of counseling at Emmons and the Active Minds adviser.
While these actions satisfy only two of the three recommendations outlined in the petition, the strides already made by Active Minds at Oxy set them apart from others being considered for the award.
“It’s difficult to measure cultural change, but I do believe that students are more likely now than in the past to give voice to trauma, to distress and to their emotional struggles,” Calkins said via email.
Dana Rust (senior) founded Active Minds at Oxy spring 2013 in response to a lack of mental health discussion on campus. The organization was also rewarded for the cross-campus partnerships it has created since its inception, according to Rust.
Active Minds’ existing partnerships include Spoken Word Club, Public Health Club, Queer Student Alliance and Greek organizations, according to Rust. Despite the diversity of partnerships Active Minds has formed, there is still work to be done, Rust said.
“Mental health is very much seen as a white woman’s issue, and that’s the majority of the makeup of Active Minds right now,” Rust said. “We definitely need to do more intersectional work.”
Other founding members agree that more must be done to make Occidental’s mental health services more comprehensive for all students.
“While these changes make me incredibly happy, we plan to continue to work to try to make the campus a safe space,” Binnie said via email.
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