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Active Minds, Evan

Active Minds, Evan

Evan is the '21-'22 President of Active Minds at Western University. Active Minds is a student group dedicated to reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness and to creating an open environment for the discussion of mental health issues.

We interviewed Evan to learn more about his journey with mental health and Active Minds! You can follow Active Minds on Facebook and Instagram

What is Active Minds?

So Active Minds is a mental health club on campus that focuses on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. So what our main goal is to raise awareness, spark meaningful conversations about mental health and fight the stigma that surrounds mental health. Our hope is that individuals will become better educated, more knowledgeable and more comfortable with their mental health. This is done through a bunch of different events on campus, building a community of passionate individuals with these doing advocacy events, or education workshops, etc. We mostly operate on campus. But this year since campuses are a little bit more difficult to have in person events, we've gone into the community more, which has been really great and super exciting.

Why did you join Active Minds?
So I initially joined Active Minds in my first year. So after high school I took a year off, because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up playing hockey for a year, where I got a very bad concussion, and that ended my entire career, so I came to Western kind of very disheveled, and not really knowing which direction I was gonna go, I didn't even know what program I was coming into, to be honest at first. So I found myself in this odd situation that I was in, facing a lot of imposter syndrome. I'm just trying to fit in with the rest like everybody else in university. So I joined Active Minds, because the girl that was sitting at the Booth who ended up being the president of your Saba was just so inviting. And so kind, she was just a friend right away. And that's what I found, the club has really been for me, everybody that I've talked to has become a close ally, close friend in any way possible. And through that, I just kind of rose up and educated myself more. And here I am today just kind of telling my story and helping people.
What has been your journey with mental health?
Throughout high school or until I was 18, I guess mental health was never really talked about . I come from an Eastern European background, both my parents are directly from Slovakia. And it's not really talked about at all. I remember one time I came home and I was saying how I was feeling really anxious about an exam coming up. And it's just the classic like, toughen up. You got this, like there's no need to talk about it more, just sweep it under the rug type of thing. So that really, that really kind of stuck with me. And my parents didn't know about mental health or mental health resources, which is obviously why and I think that was a big reason for tossing myself into it and educating myself more. And then coming into sports. Sports is obviously a very difficult place for mental health. I played at a high level for hockey. And that's when I got my concussion. And even when that happened, it was just like, When can you play again? You're fine. We can't see any physical injury on you. You're okay. So that was a turning point, I think when I decided, Okay, I think I should go to school and really focus on something different than this. And then as far as university goes, when I first joined active minds, I was just a general member, super shy, just went to all the events and had a good time. And then slowly rose up into thinking, hey, I wanted to start to lead this club, take on a more executive position and start really improving my mental health literacy so I can help out my friends and family around me. From that, I came into this role as president this year, it's been absolutely phenomenal. My team is incredible. Like such people, such great personalities all coming together to like, create this common goal that we all have improving mental health.
What barriers do you think exist for students to access mental health resources on campus?

I think common barriers that have really been talked about this year is that Western is making very active efforts to improve which Active Minds is very happy about especially  the diversity within counseling, so what I mean by that is predominantly speaking in a lot of universities, not just Western counselors have commonly been older white male who are in this role, and that's really difficult for somebody to come into that if you can't associate yourself directly with the person that you're counseling with. So I think Western students do a great job with bringing in new counselors, more diversity, and that sense. And then as far as other barriers go, I think one of the main barriers acts of the mind really helps to address like I said before, it's just that main stigma around mental health and like, not wanting to talk about it. That's why we have all of our advocacy initiatives and events to bring forth for the pure raw discussion on campus without any filter, because I think that really helps students realize this isn't a bad thing. There's plenty more people doing this. It's not just me, right? And I think after stuff like that happens, that kind of comes more prominent on campus. So acknowledge that it's okay to be like that. Then people start opening up and maybe go to counseling more and, you know, ask their friends for help. So that's kind of my take on that. But like I said, I think Western has done a great job.

If you could describe your relationship with your mental health in one word, what would it be?

I probably would say it's ever changing. I mean, it's a different thing every morning, you know, you kind of wake up and you feel a different way that I feel like that's pretty common with everybody.