By Racquel Joseph
Time-tested truth: no matter if there is class, work, or meeting that requires attention, walking past a group of adorable puppies is not an option. On November 11, many students dropped what they were doing to cuddle, chase, and play with puppies on Fountain Mall. Active Minds, one of the newest organizations to be chartered on campus was responsible for the Puppy Play Day. Active Minds is an national organization with 297 chapters that encourages discourse among college students about mental health. The student members partnered with the Humane Society of Central Texas to bring five dogs to campus for some student interaction.
This semester is Active Minds’ first as an operating organization and the officers and members have wasted no time getting to work. In addition to general meetings, they’ve begun organizing and holding events like a coffee hour with time for discussions about mental health or, most recently, Puppy Play Day.
Evant Senior Logan Clary, the group’s treasurer says he was inspired to join by his major. “It’s an organization that promotes mental health awareness, and as a psychology major that is something that I’ll work with for the rest of my life. Each month we focus on something new for our programs.”
Active Minds’ focus for the month of November was depression, a common problem among college students. The idea to bring animals to campus stemmed from the growing practice of using puppies and kittens in counseling centers to help raise the spirits of visitors.
Ft. Worth senior Rachel Chasse is the founding president of Active Minds. She explained that research has shown time and again that having a relationship with an animal can help reduce depressive symptoms. “Bonding with anyone, even a pet, can raise people’s sense of relatedness and help them not to feel alone in their struggles. And that was the idea behind Puppy Play Day—coupled with being outdoors and getting exercise, playing with an animal can help,” Chasse said.
By beginning the conversation, Active Minds raises awareness, educates students about signs of mental disorders, and helps assist those in need. “Many people, especially Baylor-typical high achievers, do not like to admit they may be depressed. We hope to reduce the stigma associated with getting help by raising awareness of the commonality of these mental health issues,” said founding president Rachel Chasse.
She says that like most other topics, people think they know a lot about mental health until it comes time to apply the knowledge—especially if a friend or loved one is involved. The Baylor chapter is determined to bring fun, interesting events to campus that will both provide a comfortable environment for students to talk and help relieve symptoms.
Overall, Puppy Play Day was a success for both Active Minds and the Humane Society of Central Texas. An estimated 200 students participated and several picked up animal adoption applications or expressed interest in fostering shelter animals.