Board members of Mind Matters at CSUDH. Photo by Yesenia Flores
By Yesenia Flores
Minds Matter at CSUDH is not just another student-led mental health advocacy and support group on campus. It aims to raise mental health awareness on campus and in surrounding communities, one person at a time, by reaching out to anyone who has an interest in being a mental health advocate, or is currently dealing with a mental illness.
“The difference with our group is that we wanted to have a peer-to-peer approach and create a safe space for people to come and share about their day, talk about what’s stressing them out and not feel judged,” Jonisha Garcia, a psychology major and founder of the group said. “We’re opening up the floor for anyone and everyone.”
The group’s meetings are designed in two parts. The first centers on a presentation about a specific topic relating to mental illness and the second consists of a conversation about the topic and a safe space to share personal problems and experiences. Although participation is welcomed, there is no pressure to talk as one can simply sit, listen, or participate whenever they feel comfortable.
The need for education in the mental illness realm is abundant, not only amongst our peers but also our own families, said Jessica Maximo, a psychology major and board member.
“In my family, we’re Mexican, we’re not supposed to see mental illness,” she said. “We’re not supposed to accept it.”
In some cultures, mental illness is not acknowledged, or people who suffer from it are written off as lazy. In others, the prevailing sentiment is that it is easily surmountable simply by thinking happy thoughts. Some people are taught to put on a happy face and ignore all signs of mental illness. The necessity of spreading education about mental illness exists, which is why Minds Matter At CSUDH decided to initiate their group.
Those who work in mental health fields see first hand the lack of knowledge and empathy surrounding mental health.
“I’m in the field for mental health recovery and being there I realized a lot of people have the wrong information,” Wendy Garduno, a human services major and board member said. “With a simple, ‘Oh no, it’s actually this and not that,’ simply educating people can really change a person’s perspective on mental illness disorders.”
Elvia Zapata, a psychology major and board member, agrees.
“Evidently, education goes a long way and having someone to talk to that understands what it’s like to have a mental illness or is simply informed about the subject and is not judgemental is always comforting,” Zapata said.
Although Minds Matter At CSUDH is not an official club on campus as of now, it is supported by the Student Health and Psychological Services and the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).
The organization has professional expertise in two members of NAMI South Bay: its president, Paul Stansbury, and education coordinator Rick Pulid. They assist the group by sharing their experience and knowledge, give suggestions on how to improve outreach, and help arrange speakers to come in during meetings and engage members in conversation around specific topics.
“Once it becomes an official club next semester, they will change their title and partner with NAMI to bring a NAMI On Campus chapter to CSUDH,” Carolina Gomez Herrera, a psychology major, and board member said.
Minds Matter At CSUDH will meet Nov. 13 & 25 and Dec. 9 in LSU Meeting Room 323 between 1- 2 pm.