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Emily Gehr, Carroll Community College Active Minds chapter president
Emily Gehr, Carroll Community College Active Minds chapter president (Courtesy Photo)

Emily Gehr, 20, is a third-year student at Carroll Community College studying social work who runs a chapter of Active Minds at her school to help others with mental illness. After she graduates, she plans to continue her studies at McDaniel College, as well as her work with that school’s chapter of Active Minds. Gehr is from Westminster and is the education coordinator at the Boys & Girls Club.

Gehr serves as the president of the Carroll Community College Active Minds Chapter, which has more than 40 members. She said she has anxiety and ADHD and she recently spoke on a panel about dealing with mental illness and school.

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“I really spoke more about how I have gotten through life. When I first started school I didn’t do so well,” said Gehr. “Then I got together with the Disability Support Services, got some ways to really change that around, got some better focusing habits and better study habits to help with it.”

The Times caught up with Gehr to talk about Active Minds, changing the dialogue on mental illness and advocacy on campus.

Q: What is Active Minds and when was it started?

A: Active Minds is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on campus awareness of mental health through campaigns, events, advocacy, education and outreach. Active Minds was started by our founder, Alison Malmon, at the University of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2000 after her brother, Brian, ended his own life. Brian struggled with depression and psychosis, but hid his symptoms ... which led Alison to create a group on her campus to raise awareness about the prevalence that mental illness can have on college campuses, combat the stigma of mental illness and provide resources to others.

Q: What does Active Minds do?

A: Active Minds is dedicated to saving lives and building strong communities. Active Minds is changing the conversation about mental health by providing education and advocacy about mental heath and mental illnesses. Active Minds focuses on the student in an effort to create a lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for, and valued in the community. We are an organization that encourages students to openly talk about mental health, support each other, get help when needed, and take action for suicide prevention.

Q: What caused students to organize Active Minds?

A: The reason we started an Active Minds chapter is because young people are the drivers of change. We encourage our peers to learn about, talk openly about and seek help for mental health issues just as help would be sought for physical issues, without shame.

Q: What do you do at your meetings?

A: We’ve gone over the basis of Active Minds, like we do that education advocacy and awareness statement for people who haven’t been to a meeting before. Then we go over some ideas for outreach through the campus. Like last May, we had some pop-up booths with stress relief activities and stuff that you can do before finals or fundraising activities

Q: What is the importance of Active Minds to you?

A: The importance of Active Minds for me is, I’ve had family members, friends with mental health conditions all throughout my life. And I’ve known a lot of people who have committed suicide and so bringing the awareness to the college campus, creating a conversation and a safe place for people who may have those feelings is what’s really important for us.

Q: What goals do you have for Active Minds?

A: The goals we have for Active Minds are to create a lasting open discussion about mental health awareness on campus. Many students struggle in silence, when that doesn’t have to happen. We want students to know that no matter what, they have a support system here on campus. We hope to have a presence here at Carroll for a long time to come.

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Q: How do you hope Active Minds will benefit the Carroll Community College community?

A: Campuses with an Active Minds presence have shown a decrease in suicide rates, and students are 20% more likely to pursue and receive treatment on campuses that are more supportive of mental health issues. I hope that our impact on campus encourages our students to educate and advocate off campus as well.

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