AACC club seeks to fight stigma regarding mental illness around campus


Christian Richey

Club President Ciara Winters (left) and Dr. Denise Portis were among the attendees at the Active Mind clubs first meeting of the semester.

Christian Richey, Associate Editor

AACC’s Active Minds Club fights against stigmas concerning mental health, according to the group’s president.

The club is AACC’s branch of Active Minds, a non-profit organization dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

“Our purpose on campus is to fight stigma and I feel there is a stigma on campus,” Club President Ciara Winters, a third-year nursing student, said.

The club’s advisor, Dr. Denise Portis, said the club’s goals include letting students struggling with mental health issues know they aren’t alone.

“Mental health illness tends to be something that’s invisibly pervasive, and I think our goal is to make it more visible so that students discover they’re not alone and discover a place to be proactive about their own mental health care,” Portis said.

New member Luda Unkenholz, a first-year continuing education student, said she appreciated the club. “I think it’s amazing because I’ve been struggling with mental illness most of my life and this is like a way to get awareness out into the community,” Unkenholz said.

Portis noted her own struggles with mental health, and how this connected her with the club.

“At the age of 25, right after I got out of college and I lost my hearing, I … considered taking my own life a number of times and had to go into counseling,” Portis said. “It just motivated me to help others because I knew that you didn’t have to acquire a disability to have suicidal ideation, and it was just important to have support.”

Unkenholz said students struggling with mental health issues should seek help and continue fighting. “It gets better … don’t give up,” Unkenholz said.

The club meets every other Tuesday and Monday, with their next meetings Monday, Sept. 9, and Tuesday Sept. 17.