by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
This past weekend, the Providence College chapter of Active Minds attended the annual Active Minds Conference, which took place in Washington D.C. this year. This was the third year students from PC attended the event, and remarked on how far they have come since then.
“It was exciting that we were able to bring six students and an adviser with us this year,” said Cassandra Caggiano ’18, co-president of the club. “It really showed the administration’s commitment on bringing the mental health needs to students, and ensuring the longevity of the chapter.” Caggiano went on to explain that by having more students attend the event, the club was able to go to more workshops and speakers over the course of the weekend, which made it even more successful.
Co-President Anissa Latifi ’18 explained that her favorite part of the weekend was definitely connecting with other advocates of mental illness and hearing their stories and experiences with stigma in their lives. “I was able to go to a discussion based presentation that was centered around culture and stigma,” she said. “For me this was the first time I was able to recognize stigma that others have experienced due to culture similarly to my own experiences.”
Caggiano also spoke about this discussion, and explained that it is interesting to see how mental health discussions work in different cultures. “Some people might have a different stigmas based on how they’re raised, and it was great to learn how to identify that and how to get people talking about that particular issue.”
“The coolest part for me was kind of being at the end of the spectrum the first year I attended, to being one of the more successful campuses now.” She explained that the first year she attended, there were a lot of things to improve on. “It felt like we came full circle, especially as other colleges were asking us and taking notes on what we do to advocate for mental health on our campus.”
Caggiano and Latifi both I credited their success to the administration, and thanked them for never putting a price on our students’ mental health.
“I am most excited to have brought back a renewed sense of passion for advocating for mental illness,” Latifi said when looking back on the weekend. “I hope to bring back the importance of story telling to the experience of mental illness because through the conference weekend I realized that as humans we can connect better to individual testimony than we do to stark, bare facts about mental illness.”
Caggiano reflected that the friendships she has made at Active Minds conferences have often benefitted PC in more ways than one. She told a story about meeting a friend from Loyola University Maryland the first year she attended a conference that was held in California.
“We have remained friends, and I feel like I can text her and ask her a question about what her school is doing in regards to mental health. We’ll text and check in, especially since our schools are similar in nature, and it is cool to talk to her and see what her school is doing,” she said. “Relationships like these have fostered more ideas and mental health promotion than you’d expect,” she said.
With this in mind, Caggiano suggests to whoever goes next year to take advantage of these relationships and not to go in with any expectations. “Ask someone you met to get a coffee or go to the next session,” she said. “Try to make as many connections with other students as you can.”
She concluded in saying these connections are so important and stressed she never wants students to feel like they are alone. “If you are struggling personally or if a friend is struggling personally, know there are a lot of resources on this campus, and someone is here to listen,” she said.