By Mariah Greatorex, Staff Writer 

Linked to the national non-profit organization, UMF’s chapter of Active Minds was recently created with the aim to reduce stigma regarding mental health illnesses and to create a positive campus environment for all students.

“We really want campus, and the whole community, to have access to resources and a positive outlook on life,” said club president Hayley Fortier. “Ultimately, we want everyone on this campus to feel safe and happy,” Fortier said.

Gavin Pickering, M.Ed., LCPC, is not only a counselor at the Center for Student Development, but serves as the the faculty advisor for Active Minds. “What’s really exciting about Active Minds,” Pickering said, “is that we can collaborate with a bunch of organizations that are already established.”

This spring, Active Minds will be collaborating with the Health Center, Campus Violence Prevention Coalition, Lawn Chair Pirates and Clef Notes to sponsor a variety of programs and events. Placing an emphasis on guest speakers, the club hopes to make the events widespread throughout campus and the Farmington community.

“Instead of the group being the topic, the topic will be about something like depression,” Pickering said, “and we will have the Rehab club, LGBT club, or Psychology club come in and talk about depression, or whatever the topic may be.”

Active Minds will be discussing many relatable topics at these events, but Fortier said, “personally, I think we should allow the topics that are heavier to be heavy, it’s okay to be upset about something and not necessarily know how to deal with it.” Fortier stressed that it is of utmost importance to establish a safe environment to talk early on.

Director of the Center for Student Development Bob Pedarson has been attempting for nearly ten years to establish the chapter on UMF’s campus.

“Active Minds provides a lot of support for students who experience depression and anxiety,” Pederson said. “We’ve seen an increase, the past ten to fifteen years, in the amount of students who need that support.”

On September 24th of the Fall 2016 semester, Active Minds will be leading the ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ aiming to to provide suicide awareness, as well as bring together UMF students and members of the community. “It’s truly about getting everybody together to inform, remember, and prevent” Fortier said, “and I am very, very excited about it.”

Many people are unaware of Active Minds because “in order to meet the expectations of the organization,” Pickering said, “we have to fundraise a certain amount of money by the end of the year,” [$500].

Active Minds members came to the consensus to use the Fall of 2016 as a fresh start and launching period, but that does not mean people can not get involved now. In fact, “they can help with planning for next semester,” said Pickering, “and get excited about it.” Anybody interested in joining can contact Gavin Pickering, 207-778-7038 or Hayley Fortier at hayley.fortier@maine.edu.