A fifth of college students reported that they have suffered from severe stress, thoughts of self-harm and difficulties with mental illness, according to a 2018 study in the Depression and Anxiety medical research journal.
Statistics like these help explain why mental health has been an important topic of discussion at colleges around the nation. That has been the case at Ohio State, where a mental health task force presented recommendations to University President Michael Drake near the beginning of the fall semester, many of which are in the process of being implemented by a new task force, Drake told The Lantern in early October.
That hasn’t stopped Mind’s Matter from addressing mental health head on. The new Ohio State student organization examines these issues through a lens of neuroscience and the body’s internal functions. With this focus, Mind’s Matter aims to raise awareness of physical methods an individual can employ to improve mental health.
“I took a neuro class that kind of illustrated how intertwined the physical aspect of mental health is to the subjective feeling with depression or anxiety… there is a physiological basis to it,” said Jake Sawyer, president of Mind’s Matter and third-year in neuroscience.
Mind’s Matter hosted an information booth in the Ohio Union on Thursday where members offered information sheets that listed various ways an individual can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“I volunteer at a crisis line and I started bringing up some of the neuroscience and stuff you could do to kind of curb your symptoms,” Sawyer said. “That really resonated with people and it made me realize I wanted to get that message out.”
The sheet included tactics such as talk therapy, relaxation breaks, meditation, dieting and exercise.
“We’ve actually had a decent amount of people come up,” said Ryan Debiec, Mind’s Matter’s director of student outreach and fifth-year in finance. “We’ll explain some of these things in our handout to them, like how talking about [mental health]… scientifically it can reduce your anxiety levels… you can see that they’re very intrigued by it.”
Mind’s Matter’s advice isn’t without research to support it. According to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, exercise has the ability to fight symptoms of depression.
Mind’s Matter wants to give individuals simple and direct methods to improve their mental health, while also being informative.
“For me, it’s giving people a more tangible approach to mental illness and mental health and kind of bettering themselves,” said Meghan Deutsch, vice president of Mind’s Matter and third-year in biology. “More than just saying ‘go workout’ and [instead] saying ‘go workout because it’s going to help your brain this way.’”
Aside from its main goal, Mind’s Matter also aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.
“My long-term hope is that this kind of starts to reduce stigma, especially on campus, just concerning mental illness,” Deutsch said. “By saying, ‘It’s not just you, this is a problem with the physiology in your brain and there are ways to improve it that can physically improve your health’… I hope that it makes people more willing to talk about it, more willing to seek out help.”
Mind’s Matter meets at 6 p.m. every other Thursday in Enarson Classroom Building 212. Individuals looking for more information can visit https://www.facebook.com/MindsMatterOSU.