WILLISTON, N.D. - Active Minds, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to utilizing student voices to raise mental health awareness among college students, is now an active WSC student organization in January 2016.
The goal of Active Minds is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health by initiating conversation and hosting events for students interested in a career in the mental health field.
"It is important that students recognize that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are resources available on campus and in the community," explained Leah Hoffman, WSC's Mental Health Counselor. "The group focuses on normalizing the conversation about mental health. Students are encouraged to talk to each other. Help doesn't always necessarily have to come from a professional."
Active Minds was busy this spring with three events aimed at helping students during stressful situations such as midterms, holidays, and finals week.
During midterms, Active Minds set up a large display in the front entrance of Stevens Hall as its debut event to encourage students, faculty and staff to de-stress by making stress-balls and coloring. Active Minds also provided a "Have you ever?" poster that encouraged students to place a fingerprint next to any statements that would relate to something they have felt before.
"Seeing how many students felt the same experiences put a lot of students at ease," Natalie Boese, WSC Communications Specialist, stated. "To know someone else has gone through something similar can be reassuring."
The highest numbers of fingerprints were in the categories of experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. To address what WSC students were saying through their experiences with anxiety and depression, Active Mind's next event featured a powerful display on campus with 1,100 pieces of paper representing 1,100 college students who commit suicide each year.
Finally, Active Minds provided students with a way to de-stress before finals week.
After last year's success with Service Dogs of America, Hoffman and Active Minds knew having this event again would benefit WSC students.
"Last year they brought two adult dogs who had completed their training and were awaiting placement with their 'life partners'. Both dogs would be going to North Dakota Veterans," Hoffman explained. "We were able to see the dog's skills [opening doors, picking up objects, turning on lights]. When one visitor was emotional with tears, the dog Buddy actually jumped on her lap to give her a 'hug.' It was pretty amazing to see, and the feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive."
This year four lab puppies came on May 3-4. Once again, they helped put a lot of students, faculty and staff at ease before finals week.
"This event is an attempt to get students to relax and enjoy themselves during a typically high-stress time," stated Hoffman. "Spending time with a loving animal can promote emotional and mental health by reducing stress hormones and lowering blood pressure."
There are over 400 Active Minds chapters nationwide, but WSC's is the first Active Minds chapter in North Dakota. Implementing Active Minds at WSC has allowed for more peer-to-peer delivery, which Hoffman has noticed is much more effective.
The number of counseling sessions has more than doubled from Spring 2015. Last spring Hoffman had 48 sessions with 25 different students, and this spring she had 99 sessions with 36 students. She attributes a lot of the success to implementing the Active Minds chapter at WSC.
"After our suicide prevention display, I had several new students contact me," Hoffman explained. "Students hear me talk about mental health all the time, but having a peer speak to them about it goes a long way. I am happy that our Active Minds chapter has already made such an impact on our students."
For More Information, contact Leah Hoffman, WSC Mental Health Counselor at 701.774.4212 or
For any information regarding WSC, please visit www.willistonstate.edu, call 1.888.863.9455, or stop by 1410 University Avenue, Williston, ND.