University of Mississippi

At Ole Miss

Active Minds promotes mental health awareness and education on campus

By Caroline Hewitt


The Ole Miss Active Minds chapter hosted a ‘Send Silence Packing’ exhibition on March 26, during which more than 1,100 backpacks were placed in the Grove, each representing a college student lost to suicide. Photo by Sarah Byron

Active Minds, which has a chapter at the University of Mississippi, is a nonprofit, national organization that promotes mental health awareness and education on college campuses. The goal of this student organization is to break the stigma of mental illness among college students by increasing awareness of mental health. It provides students with information and resources on mental health in a safe and peer-oriented environment.

Kathryn Forbes, president of the Ole Miss Active Minds chapter, is responsible for bringing the organization to the Ole Miss campus two years ago. After struggling with mental health issues as a freshman and sophomore, Forbes was determined to change the way Ole Miss students looked at mental health.

“I think it’s so important to let freshmen know that they’re going to face challenges in the next four years,” Forbes said. “They need to know that it’s OK to seek help and to admit to feeling sad or anxious or overwhelmed. Hopefully, Active Minds has shown them that students of all ages have stories of struggles.”

After a six-month break from her studies because of a personal struggle with mental health, Forbes returned to Ole Miss for her junior year. Majoring in psychology with minors in neuroscience and public policy leadership, she managed to keep herself busy by getting involved around campus.

Forbes began doing research on Active Minds and decided to register the organization on campus. With help from Tyler Rice, a senior forensic chemistry major who is now vice president of the organization, Active Minds eventually became a registered student organization. It has 25 members with UM psychology professor Kelly Wilson as its adviser.

“There were a lot of people willing to jump on board,” Forbes said. “The more people in our program that shared their stories, the more people came to us.”

Similar to Forbes, Rice also had suffered from mental health problems.

“When Kathryn brought up the idea of starting an Active Minds chapter here at the university, I immediately wanted to do it,” Rice said. “Mental health is very important to me, not just because of my struggles but because it is so visible in society.

“I wanted to use myself as an example and as a voice that this is a problem that we need to address. Being involved wasn’t really a decision because I never considered not doing it.”

Since Forbes is a senior, she will be passing down her role as Active Minds president to a member of the organization who has shown passion and leadership. With advice from the national organization on how to transition officers, Forbes is confident the organization is in good hands.

“I hope it grows even larger and offers many more events for students to get involved,” Forbes said. “I hope more faculty (members) at the university get involved because they are so helpful in event planning and making sure we reach larger audiences. Lastly, I hope that students feel that they can openly talk about mental health.”

Active Minds hosts several events throughout the school year, including a weeklong campaign with a variety of different events in honor of Mental Health Week. To learn more about the Ole Miss Active Minds chapter, visit its Facebook page.

Caroline Hewitt is a journalism major and University Communications intern at the University of Mississippi.

Back to top