By Yosef Rosenfield on behalf of Features Staff
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight one club available to the YU undergraduate community. For the September issue, the YU Observer is highlighting “Active Minds.”
Club Name: Active Minds
Heads: Rivky Terebelo, Benji Morris, Sarina Hilowitz and Aaron Purow
Relevant Campus(es): Beren and Wilf
What is your club’s mission statement?: Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. We are dedicated to saving lives and to building stronger families and communities. Through education, research and advocacy, Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is discussed and valued in the United States. We believe that no one should have to struggle alone. By empowering young adults to speak openly about mental health, we can reduce stigma, encourage help seeking, and prevent suicides.
Why is this club important?:
Rivky: Mental health is a component of everyone’s life, which means that every single person can benefit from a club that focuses on mental health awareness. Whether people live with a mental illness or simply want to give their mental health a boost, the club will provide programs, events and educational opportunities that apply to them.
Benji: I think a lot of people don’t stop to take their mental health into account unless something is clearly going wrong, at which point they are not aware of what resources are available or which to use. I believe that unfortunately mental health literacy isn’t where it should be, and a lot of people don’t necessarily think to educate themselves on their own. Our club provides additional resources, and the more people learn the more useful that knowledge can become if someone needs help.
Sarina: Mental health affects everyone, and not enough students recognize this fact. Many who do often feel uncomfortable discussing it. We want the students of Yeshiva University to not only be aware of mental health, but feel comfortable talking and opening up about it. We are essentially trying to make our community more aware and more compassionate, as these are two very important qualities for a community to possess.
Aaron: Whether you are dealing with a mental illness or just feel sad, depressed, anxious or obsessive from time to time, mental health applies to everyone. Since thoughts and emotions are intangible, however, mental health can be a taboo or sensitive topic for many people. The goal of Active Minds is to offer compassion to those suffering and address the topic of mental health in a way that respects its sensitive nature.
What prompted you to get involved in/start the club?:
Rivky: Mental health is something that I’ve always believed was inadequately discussed in the Jewish community. It’s so important for people to speak up about it and share their stories so that others know that they are not alone and can then get the help they need. When I started in YU and heard about Active Minds, I knew I needed to get involved. Last year I was on the board, as well as on the editorial staff for Active Minds’ publication, The Breather, and this year I have the opportunity to be involved as president.
Benji: As a freshman I attended one of their on-campus events, Stomp Out the Stigma, which I found to be really powerful. Since then I have attended many of their other events. Although I am not working toward a degree in psychology, the field has always really interested me, and I love hearing/learning about other people’s life experiences.
Sarina: I have to give co-president Aaron Purow a lot of credit for recruiting me. It was the summer before my first year at Stern when Aaron told me all about Active Minds and the impact they were making on people’s lives. I was inspired instantaneously. There’s quite the pull toward a club that is as raw, personal and genuine as Active Minds. Having the opportunity to be a shoulder for those around you is truly a privilege.
Aaron: Mental health has always been a topic that I’ve been passionate about. Given that I’ve struggled with some mental health disorders and have thankfully persevered, I felt that it was my absolute responsibility to share my experiences and be there for people who are going through similar challenges. Between speaking at Stomp Out the Stigma two years ago and being the president of the club last year as well as this year, it has honestly been such a privilege to work with some of the nicest, most driven and unbelievably compassionate people I have ever met.
What are some things your club has done in the past (if the club is not new)?:
We’ve done programs like the Jonathan’s Fellowship, a partnership in which students at YU connect with Frisch High School students to talk about their struggles with mental health and how they got help. Active Minds has also brought in various speakers and experts to discuss and raise awareness for mental health. The most well-known event we have is Stomp Out the Stigma; this program features student speakers from the Beren and Wilf campuses, who come to discuss their experiences and journeys with mental illness.
What are some plans you have for this semester and/or future semesters?:
Rivky: Although this semester, and possibly the next one as well, will look very different than most, we spent time over the summer discussing ways to make the best plans we can. We, together with our amazing board members and The Breather staff, are excited to run many events, programs and initiatives that can benefit every single person. Whether the events need to stay on Zoom or we can do in-person functions, we’re excited to show you all of what we have in store for the year.
Benji: Thanks to our truly amazing team — and I really have to give it up to my co-presidents — we already have the first event of the year ready to go. We also have an awesome newsletter. I look forward to many more events that will help me and others learn about what different mental illnesses look like and about mental health in general.
Sarina: The plan is — G-d willing, when circumstances allow it and we’re back on campus — to continue with in-person events and hopefully a shabbaton as well. But in the meantime we hope to find engaging ways to involve everyone, whether through Zoom or by any other means.
Aaron: Right now we have some great virtual events taking place over the next couple of months. We are starting off the year with a “How to Get Excited for the Upcoming Unique Year” panel, followed by some other virtual events which are still in the making. We have also been blessed to publish this year’s first edition of The Breather, our club’s official newsletter. We’d like to thank Shayna Herzage and Avigayil Winokur (editors-in-chief of The Breather) who have spent countless hours putting it together. Other events that our club runs will be advertised throughout the year.
What is your favorite OSL-provided food at club events?:
Rivky: We all know food is what brings people to events — so any and all.
Benji: To be honest, YU’s food is probably the one thing I haven’t been missing (shhh).
Sarina: Honestly, anything.
Aaron: Considering we are still virtual, I’d recommend people go to their local supermarket and grab a pint of ice cream.
Since COVID-19 hit, how has your club adjusted?:
Thank G-d, it’s actually been adjusting pretty smoothly for the most part. Active Minds is all about raising awareness for mental health and removing the stigma around mental illness, and these are both things we can do regardless of physical proximity. We wish our efforts could be made in person, but that goes without saying. We have our first event of the year (a panel) over Zoom and that will be the first of many virtual events to come! We also learned that social media is a really big part of raising awareness, and together with our amazing team we have been working on using that to our advantage.
What is your advice to people who are looking to get involved on campus?:
Rivky: Apply, apply, apply. If at the beginning of the semester you get an email about a club that you’re interested in, just submit an application. Be on the board. A lot of clubs don’t necessarily demand a specific time commitment, but simply encourage members to be as involved as they would like — so if you want to join a club, do it! There are so many opportunities at YU; if there’s something that interests you, contact those involved to hear more about it.
Benji: People reach out all the time, and so many people have such awesome skills and come up with ideas that never would have even crossed our minds. People can contact us either through social media or by getting in touch with any one of us individually.
Sarina: Definitely just get involved. I know it’s easier said than done, but literally hit us up in any capacity (Instagram, Facebook, email, in person!!). What Active Minds is doing is creating a positive, life-changing movement within our community. That is something you want to be a part of.
Aaron: We absolutely love when people want to get involved!!! If Active Minds is something you want to get on board with, please bother us incessantly to find ways of helping. The more people we have on board helping, the larger impact we can make.
Anything else to say about your club?:
Rivky: We’d love to hear from you about thoughts, ideas, or questions you have regarding Active Minds, so please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benji: Nothing is ever too insignificant to be said, and all of us are always happy to listen/talk.
Sarina: I feel like Active Minds speaks for itself on so many levels!
Aaron: Please, please, please reach out to us if you want to get involved in the most impactful club on campus. We want you!!!
Are you a YU undergraduate club head interested in seeing your club featured in a future edition? Email us at email@example.com with your club name and the names of the club heads!