We all need words of kindness and encouragement these days. The Colorado State University chapter of Active Minds, a student-run mental health advocacy organization, brought its message that CSU is “Here for You” to campus in a big way at the end of October.
The club posted the slogan in a mural made from 800 sticky notes in the window of the Behavioral Sciences Building, where anyone walking by could see it and be inspired. 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.
Jessica Sherwood, a senior majoring in clinical sciences and president of Active Minds, said that with social distancing and the mix of in-person and remote classes, and fewer opportunities to just hang out with friends, CSU doesn’t seem to be as happy a place as it used to be this semester.
“We’re just trying extra hard to bring positivity back to campus,” she said. “We hope the mural can make just one person smile.”
It seems to have done more than that. Feedback on social media has been filled with gratitude for the message, Sherwood said. She added that Active Minds, which seeks to empower college students to speak openly about mental health and suicidal behavior in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking behaviors, has grown to 20 active members this semester.
“We want to make CSU a healthier community that’s not only mindful but also supportive of the idea that mental health is just as important as physical health,” she said. “Many students are feeling overwhelmed right now, like whatever they do isn’t enough and they are the only ones struggling. We want to provide a moment of empathy, and let them know social distancing doesn’t have to lead to emotional distancing.”
With some of the usual routes of reaching students – tabling on the Plaza, for example – shut down, Active Minds members have become more internally focused, according to Sherwood, meeting to talk about such issues and make connections.
Data from the CSU Health Network supports the idea that students are looking for some positivity. According to Janelle Patrias, manager of mental health initiatives, demand for counseling services has definitely picked up since the beginning October. While the level of requests is about normal compared to previous semesters, the concerns are different.
“We are seeing common concerns about anxiety with navigating all the differences that COVID has brought about: feeling disconnected from friends, an abundance of Zoom meetings, a lack of in-person activities across the board, stress about their health and the health of their family members, trying to navigate new expectations that come with the hybrid learning environment,” Patrias said. “We consistently see and hear from students who are having many of these shared experiences. We encourage students to reach out and connect with one another as well as campus resources if they don’t feel they are coping very well.”
And that’s the purpose behind the mural: Active Minds wants students to know that its members are “Here for You.”
The mural was installed on Oct. 21 and will stay up for a week.