Mental health takes first
Throughout the month of May, Towson’s chapter of Active Minds has left a message on campus as a reminder for students.
“There are some green lights in front of Stephens Hall, and a few other places…It’s a more subtle way of getting our message across and a reminder that most people see almost daily,” freshman and next year’s Active Minds’ Public Relations Coordinator Kathleen McAdam said.
Green is the ribbon color used to represent Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place throughout the month of May. This month-long conversation about mental health came to a point this Saturday, May 10 at the Active Minds’ Outrunning Stigma 5K.
“We want to raise awareness about mental health on campus and in our community. A 5K is a great way to promote physical health and mental health is just as important,” McAdam said.
They developed the idea for the race from other national chapters of Active Minds with the help of the event manager and Active Minds treasurer Austin Clark.
Several companies such as The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, The Green Turtle of Towson, PayAmax, Charm City Run, Season’s Pizza, Sid Yoga and Dunkin’ Donuts sponsored the event. Food, water and money were donated from many of these organizations, which McAdam said was helpful as the set-up for the event was extensive.
She arrived at 6:45 a.m. the morning of the race, to begin preparing for the race with a number of volunteers.
“It was very validating to see everyone who showed up to support us, because we put a lot of effort into organizing the whole event,” McAdam said.
It was also McAdam’s responsibility to map out the course prior to the race. She said that a lot of her free time this semester was dedicated to exploring campus with a GPS, in order to plot the path the runners would take. The night before the race, McAdam and volunteers then spent almost five hours marking the course.
“It was exciting to actually see runners after all of the planning. And after people started running, I think we all took a deep breath and relaxed a little. It had been a long morning, and just seeing the whole thing fall into place was amazing,” McAdam said.
Also present at the race was the 1,100 Backpack Display, a collection of backpacks that were placed on Burdick Field the day of the race to symbolize the 1,100 college students who commit suicide each year in America.
“It’s a really powerful display and it really emphasizes how important it is that we talk about mental health,” McAdams said.
Towson’s Body Image Peer Education program attended and supported the race on the day of, and brought another message about mental health to the event.
“The goal of the body image peer educators is to spread awareness about positive body image and eating disorders throughout the year on campus,” junior and Body Image Peer Educator Nia Nyamweya said.
She said that college is the perfect place to learn more about different kinds of issues surrounding mental health, and how important it is to talk about these matters that affect a lot of people, yet are not frequently discussed.
“One thing that was stressed was how mental illness is so common, and it’s not something to be ignored or feared,” McAdam said. “A lot of the volunteers from Active Minds have some form of mental illness, like bipolar or depression, and we want people to know that it’s okay to talk about it.”
Many students, like the volunteers, took part in the race for their own individual reasons. Other’s preferred to support the cause as a group. Sophomore Torrie Manning participated in the race as a member of PAWS Running for a Cause, an on-campus group that takes part in various local races in order to promote whatever that particular race is supporting.
“I love the whole race environment, everyone is excited about running and ready to go,” Manning said.
The money raised from the 5K race will be donated back to Active Minds Inc. where it will help to fund the college chapters and support mental health education in campuses everywhere.
“My personal experience with mental illness drove me to get involved with Active Minds, and this group serves as a constant reminder as to why talking about mental health is so important,” McAdam said. “Sharing our stories is important, it reminds us that we’re not alone and other people are experiencing similar things.”