CSU Active Minds wins national award for pandemic response

Active Minds
CSU’s student chapter of Active Minds received the Pandemic Response award from the national Active Minds organization. Active Minds is a student-run mental health advocacy organization.

Colorado State University’s chapter of Active Minds — a student-run mental health advocacy organization — is the recipient of a national award for its commitment to students during the pandemic.

CSU Active Minds was recognized with the Pandemic Response award during the virtual Active Minds National Conference in February. The CSU chapter was recognized for creatively mobilizing around the pandemic and adjusting its advocacy to meet the needs of the campus community.

During the pandemic, CSU Active Minds used Zoom to connect with fellow students, hosting online events and virtual mental health trainings. They also developed an innovative strategy utilizing socially distanced positive messaging. As an example, organizers created a “Valentine’s Day Gram” in which students could use an online form to write valentines to their loved ones. Over 350 valentines were distributed as part of this.

CSU Active Minds President Jessica Sherwood, a fourth-year majoring in biomedical sciences, said winning the award is a significant accomplishment, underscoring the club’s growth over the past few years.

“Adjusting our efforts to the pandemic was incredibly difficult, but the pandemic ended up serving us well in ways, because it made mental health a conversation that was taking place in every household,” Sherwood said. “Everyone was starting to feel that same sense of isolation and helplessness that those who struggle with mental illness struggle with every day. It was very new emotions for a lot of people, so it was really important to us to put in extra efforts to reach out to those specifically struggling during this time.”

Other initiatives included a mural made from 800 sticky notes that was displayed in the Behavioral Sciences Building’s windows in 2021 that said: “Here For You.” On the back side of the notes, members of the club wrote messages of positivity, motivation and encouragement for anyone inside the BSB to read.

While the gestures may be small, Stephanie Zee, CSU Health Network coordinator of well-being and adviser to CSU Active Minds, said the impact is significant.

“Mental health is a really complex issue,” Zee said. “There’s this idea that we don’t talk about it, which spans across cultures. We need to encourage people to talk about mental health and destigmatize the topic. People should be really proud of the work students in Active Minds are doing on our campus.”

Sherwood, who has been president of CSU Active Minds since 2019, said she went through her own mental health journey before college, noting that there was a severe lack of mental health awareness during her secondary education.

“Mental health was always a very stigmatized topic when I was growing up, and I never felt like there was a space to talk about it,” she said. “When hearing that there was a club at CSU with the mission of raising awareness and creating conversation about mental health, I knew it was the place for me. Active Minds not only serves to create that supportive space for students to be vulnerable and open about their mental health struggles, but it also serves as an organization of mental health advocates who want to encourage and educate our peers on better mental health strategies and help-seeking behavior.”

The CSU chapter of Active Minds was established in 2014 and has more than 20 highly active members, along with hundreds of more students who subscribe to the chapter’s regular email alerts.

With more than 600 Active Minds chapters across the country, both Sherwood and Zee said it means a lot to be recognized by the national Active Minds organization, especially because of the experiences during the high-water mark of the pandemic.

“Being recognized as a chapter for our pandemic response has really allowed us to appreciate the impact we’ve made in the wellbeing of our student body in the last two years,” Sherwood said.

Join Active Minds

For students interested in being a part of the CSU chapter of Active Minds or receiving the email newsletter, email organizers at csuactiveminds@gmail.com.