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In the Neolithic Era, mental illness (also referred to as “abnormal behavior”) was thought as evil spirits taking over the mind. In hopes of removing malicious spirits lurking in the skull, part of the afflicted individual’s skull was removed in a surgical procedure called trephination.

This outdated ritual has been abandoned; however, the stigma surrounding mental health is still strong today. Mental health is ingrained in society, which makes it difficult to remove.

Enter Active Minds, the national non-profit organization that promotes mental health awareness and seems to dissolve the stigma surrounding mental illnesses on college campuses.

Melina Acosta, president of Active Minds, was inspired to establish the organization after she lost her father to suicide. She realized there were many warnings that she had overlooked due to ignorance about mental health. Determined to make a change, Acosta began her search and found an organization with the objective of educating the UTSA community about mental health and helping someone who may be struggling.

According to the American College Health Association, more than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed for a mental condition in 2015, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that one in four adults between the ages of 18 and 24 has a mental illness.

Mental illness is tough to talk about, but this only perpetuates the stigma.

Suicide is prevalent on college campuses, and according to the American Psychological Association, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students (after traffic accidents). Through initiatives like these, Active Minds want to raise awareness and encourage more students to discuss mental health issues.

Active Minds faces numerous challenges, such as overcoming the idea that mental illness is a joke. Most people are guilty of accusing an individual or themselves of “being bipolar,” “so depressed” or “having ADD.”

These small statements add to the trivialization of mental illnesses and discourage individuals from seeking help.

Active Minds wants to ensure that all students know that they have resources available, namely the UTSA Counseling Center, and that there is no shame in reaching out.

This year, Active Minds launched Suicide Prevention week, in which 1,100 white flags were placed in the lawn across the McKinney Humanities building to represent the number of college students who commit suicide every year.

Active Minds has meetings every other Tuesday (the next one is on Oct. 13) in the HUC Hidalgo room at 6 p.m.

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