This spring, Olivia Groell ’22 and Ridhika Tripathee ’22 are re-starting a Bowdoin chapter of Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization that aims to increase mental health awareness on college campuses.
“The goal of our club is to spread awareness of mental health and to destigmatize talking about it. To just have more people more comfortable with talking about their feelings, their emotions and talking to their friends about it,” Tripathee said.
In 2011, a chapter of Active Minds was started at Bowdoin, but the group has since ceased activity. Since other campuses such as Bates and Colby have active chapters, Groell and Tripathee felt it was time to re-activate a chapter at Bowdoin.
“[I] was looking into if Bowdoin had a mental health club” she said. “[I realized] that we kind of had organizations in the past but we don’t seem to currently have one.”
For Tripathee and Groell, who have both struggled with mental health issues, there are personal stakes in establishing the club.
“I was super excited about going to college, but then I was away from my family and my support system and everything,” Tripathee said. “It was really rough and the thing with counseling is they are there, but you really have to … be there for yourself.”
Groell also had some issues surrounding mental health in her first year.
“[I wanted to create] a helpful organization for students to discuss and talk about mental health in an open way and just bring awareness to it on the Bowdoin campus,” she said.
The leaders noted that, at Bowdoin, it is not uncommon for academic stress to harm students’ mental health. Their goal is to change the way mental health is perceived and spoken about on campus.
“With Bowdoin culture I feel like everyone kind of brags about how much they have to do and how little sleep they get, so, in that way, people feel like they need to be stressed out,” Tripathee said. “They need to always be pushing themselves and they think it’s okay to feel depressed because they think that’s just part of the culture.”
Along with having club meetings directed toward increasing awareness, the club plans to partner with Counseling and Wellness Services and Peer Health to host events.
“[I hope to have] a coffee house kind of deal with Boody Johnson House, since they already do that kind of [programming],” said Tripathee. “We were going to do poetry or just have people talk about it and share their art and then just have a comfortable space while talking about it.”
In the long term, the leaders hope to host larger events.
“I was thinking of having [an event] once a year or a de-stress week or a healthy mental health awareness week or something where there are different events every day or every week,” Tripathee said.
When Groell and Tripathee complete club training, they plan to begin hosting biweekly meetings on Thursday evenings.