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Active Minds: Lyon students work to change mental health conversation

Members of the newly formed Active Minds at Lyon College not only want to promote mental health awareness but also change the conversation surrounding it.

“There is still a lot of stigma,” said junior Geneva McCaulley, of Edmond, Okla. “One of our goals is to be ‘stigma fighters’ and educate people about mental health.”

The club is a chapter of the national Active Minds organization and was approved by the Student Government Association in October. Lyon is the first private college in Arkansas to host a chapter.

McCaulley, the club president, said Director of Counseling Diane Ellis sent out an email asking if any students would be interested in starting the club. Four students quickly replied and became the club’s first executive members. 

“This first group of students immediately stepped forward and were willing to put forth the effort it took to get this organization off the ground,” said Ellis, the club’s advisor. 

“They felt strongly about helping to lessen the stigma of getting help for mental and educating students about mental health’s importance.”

The club will work to educate the Lyon campus about mental health, encourage people to seek help, and direct them to the proper resources.

“We’re not a peer support group,” McCaulley said. “Our big thing is helping people understand what mental health is and how you can get help.”

Junior Taja McKesson, the club vice president, joined because mental health is an important issue for her.

“I’ve had experience through a family member and myself,” said McKesson, of Fort Smith. “It is important, especially for college students, to understand their mental health matters just as much as their physical health.”

“I’m hoping we will be able to spread awareness.”

McCaulley joined because she has struggled with anxiety.

“I know a lot of people don’t fully understand what that is and how it impacts people,” she said. “So I wanted to be part of something that is there to inform people.”

According to ActiveMinds.org, 50 percent of college students will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and 67 percent of students tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before telling anyone else. As a result, the site estimates about 7.3 million students could benefit from the presence of an Active Minds chapter on campus.

“The national chapter was created to target high school and college students,” McCaulley said, “because that’s where this is needed most.”

“We hope this organization continues to grow beyond this initial group,” Ellis said, “so this local Active Minds chapter can shed some light on the importance of students holistically taking care of themselves now and throughout their lives.”

Lyon College is a private liberal arts college in Arkansas. The oldest college in Arkansas with its original charter, Lyon is located in Batesville, a historic town of 10,000 named by USA Today as the best city to live in the state. Listed among Forbes “Top American colleges," Lyon currently enrolls almost 700 undergraduate students, and 99 percent of its graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.