Baltimore was our final stop and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the tour. Being in a city gives us an opportunity to reach a wider population than college students. Even though Active Minds is a college based organization, we know that mental health affects everyone and our city displays give a chance to reach out to more than students.
When we are doing our displays, it is amazing to notice the open and comfortable atmosphere we are creating for people to share their experiences. Being in Baltimore was an opportunity for us to hear stories from all walks of life. When people see what we are doing and the way we are opening a dialogue about mental health, they seem to be more open about their past with mental illness and ways they can continue to help themselves.
Most of the Active Minds staff was in Baltimore helping throughout the day. I continued to hear so many different stories that were shared with them by people coming to see the display. Many people that I spoke with said that they usually didn’t talk about what they had been through. People stated that they were able to share with us because we could understand they had struggled and they were in an atmosphere where they were comfortable. I think that it is amazing that we are able to create such an atmosphere where people feel that they can share experiences with strangers.
Most of the places where we set up the display are outside and they cover a huge area. They are public settings, and we invite anybody to come through and learn about suicide and mental health awareness. I am still amazed at every stop at what people are able to share in such a public setting. I think that it is remarkable that we are able to help people in the process of healing and story sharing in such a public place.
This concept is something important to remember in our everyday lives when we are talking with people from strangers to acquaintances to family members. When people know that others care, they are more willing to open up and share their feelings and struggles. Being in an atmosphere that is free of judgement sends a message that it doesn’t matter what someone is going through, there is someone there to listen. Sometimes that is all that anyone needs.