active minds pres and vp

Sophie Elliott (left) and Anna Mottola serve as the Active Minds Vice President and president.

Gonzaga Active Minds, a club started in 2019, works to educate and advocate for mental health and mental health resources. After facing challenges during the pandemic while establishing on campus, Active Minds is now growing in its presence and ability to support students. 

Active Minds is a national organization that has over 600 chapters on various campuses, aiming to spark conversation regarding mental health and transform the way mental health is discussed and valued in the U.S., its website said. 

The GU chapter is headed by junior Anna Mottola, president, and senior Sophie Elliott, vice president. 

Together, they work to foster conversations about mental health at GU, as well as bring in outside organizations to provide students with additional resources and information. 

“We wanted people to have kind of like an educational experience, but also have a space where you can meet some people and get some resources,” Mottola said.

She said the club is not a therapy or emotional support group, but rather a space to find professional resources and have others provide support in reaching out for help. 

“We’re like a guiding hand,” Mottola said. “We’re there to support, but also not be the support. If someone’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going through crisis,’ or, ‘I think I need to talk to someone,’ we’re like, ‘Here’s a bunch of resources,’ and we can connect you.”

Mottola said part of the club is not only teaching members about the resources that are available to them, but also about the skills necessary to support others struggling with mental health, such as through productive and healthy conversations. 

“We’re also trying to destigmatize mental health conversations,” Mottola said. “We’re trying to pivot those types of conversations and make it OK to talk about your mental health.”

Mottola said that she has noticed conversations shifting within the club, where members are more comfortable sharing during discussions. 

“[That is] something that I find reallybeneficial just because the goal is to be able to have these conversations and to notice people like saying ‘Hey, I can talk about this,’ makes me feel good,” Mottola said. “Because then, I know that they’re getting something out of it.”

Mottola said he club plans on meeting twice a month, as well as host events with other groups on campus and outside organizations.

One collaboration that Active Minds participated in was with the Gonzaga Student Body Association earlier this year, where small flags with messages of hope were placed on Foley Lawn for suicide prevention awareness. 

For both Mottola and Elliot, knowing that people are more open and willing to have conversations about mental health is important. 

“It’s been really meaningful for me to feel like I can help the members know that they have people who are supporting them and that there are resources on campus if they do need it,” Elliott said. “I think that’s kind of what keeps me going, is knowing even if it’s just like one or two people, we are making an impact and just letting them know that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.” 

Since its creation, the GU chapter has had a few figures speak to the club, including on-campus counselors. Most recently, a speaker from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) in Spokane talked to club members on Monday.

“We had some counselors on campus come and talk, and I thought that was really helpful just because it kind of helped break that barrier of… intimidation I think that sometimes comes with going to counseling,” Elliott said. “It seems like this kind of scary thing, and I think putting faces to the names  really helped people. And for me, I think it was nice just to be like, ‘Oh, this is a normal person and this is what to expect like if I were to go to a counseling meeting.”

Though Mottola and Elliott said that the club is still working on expanding its presence, they have found that students who are involved with the club have been positively impacted. 

“Generally, people are very excited about the club,” Elliott said. “I think mental health conversations are starting to become more and more common, and it is just becoming more prevalent on our campus and in our society. So I think people are definitely very excited and enthusiastic to know that a club like this exists.”

Elliott and Mottola said they hope to continue growing the club throughout the year, collaborating with other groups on campus as well as bringing in members of the broader community, like NAMI. 

As for the topics discussed in Active Minds, club members’ feedback is a major influence. However, Mottola said she emphasized that she doesn’t want involvement in the club to be a stressor and wants the club to be a place of support.

“Everyone’s going through their own struggles, but a lot of the time it feels like you’re so alone in them,” Elliott said. “They’re not alone and… they do have support on campus even if it might feel like they don’t.”

Students can join Active Minds by attending the Monday night meetings at 5 p.m. in Hemmingson 201 or follow the club on Instagram for updates: @activemindsgu.

Olivia Galbraith is a staff writer.

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