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Beginning July 1, 2019, all public, charter, and private schools in California will be required to print a crisis number for suicide prevention on student identification cards for grades seven through college thanks to California Senate Bill 972, passed earlier this month.

This achievement is truly monumental considering that suicide is the second leading cause of death among this age group. Thanks to this bill, every middle school, high school, and college student will have easy access to a crisis number when they need it.

The bill was inspired by a movement that began with Active Minds students as early as 2012. Back then, Active Minds students Abby de la Rosa and Sarah Liming at the University of Dayton were the first students to successfully petition campus administrators to print a crisis call line on the back of all student identification cards, impacting more than 10,000 students.

The students recognized that we can’t often foresee a scary situation; often students need access to help outside of standard office hours of 9am to 5pm. It’s also when they need it most that they may not have the time to focus to reach for a reputable number to call after hours. Student identification card initiatives are important; by putting crisis numbers there, we can remove the guesswork and save lives.

That’s why in 2014, Active Minds established Transform Your Campus, the umbrella moniker for free, specialized training and technical assistance available to students from Active Minds staff and an online, self-guided toolkit for conducting effective policy change. Based on the success of de la Rosa, Liming, and other student advocates, Active Minds created the first featured campaign to support students with adding the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line to student identification cards.

Since then, more than 450 campuses have participated in Transform Your Campus. At least 58 of the campuses have so far successfully changed their policies and/or systems as a result of the program, at least 22 of which included changes to student identification cards in the last three years. In total, these changes impact approximately 892,960 students enrolled on their campuses.

Active Minds is so grateful to lawmakers in California for prioritizing the mental health and safety of young adults, and we hope to see more states adopt similar guidelines. For more information about the power of the student voice for policy reform, please see our position statement here. For more information about how to lead policy/systems change on your own campus, please check out Transform Your Campus or contact us at transform@activeminds.org.

Here’s a list of campuses that have voluntarily changed their IDs, which include at least:
  • Bridgewater College
  • California State University, Fullerton
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Jefferson College
  • Luther College
  • Oregon State University
  • Rockhurst University
  • Southern Connecticut State University
  • Stockton University
  • SUNY Old Westbury
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Michigan, Dearborn
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Rochester
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Toledo
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Raise your hand if you’re a mental health advocate who struggles to prioritize your own mental health.

If you don’t relate to the above statement, I am honestly so incredibly happy for you. But if you can relate, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Being a mental health advocate is really hard work. It takes a lot of dedication, long hours, and if you’re an Active Minds chapter president like me, a lot of commitment to the cause. Don’t get me wrong, being a chapter president and a part of the Student Advisory Committee have been some of the greatest things I have ever been a part of in my life. So much so that I will be beginning my internship with Active Minds in just a few short days. But in order to make the changes that I aspire to make, I need to accomplish something even harder: prioritizing my own mental health.

Some may think that having positive mental health is something easy to achieve, and maybe it is for you (I‘m so proud of you if it is!). However, for me, prioritizing my mental health has taken almost as much commitment and flexibility as my role as a mental health advocate. If you’re also a full-time student who is worrying about GPA, your social life, and grad school apps, this can be even harder! But I learned the hard way that I’m useless to the cause and to the people I work to serve if I can’t be a role model or an example for those who are struggling as well. While I can still function, and do what needs to be done when I am not feeling my best mentally, my best work comes from my best me, and that what I want to be able to give to those around me.

It took a lot of hard work, discernment, and support from others for me to be able to prioritize my mental health and not feel like I was slacking or not giving 100% just because of that. Not only do I need to be my best me to be the best advocate I can be, but I also deserve to live a life that I am proud of. And for a mental health advocate like me, a life I am proud of has to include positive mental health and self-care. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, this is a lot easier said than done (as many of you may understand). But as many of my incredible friends, family, and fellow mental health advocates have taught me, a huge part of mental health advocacy is being able to prioritize your mental health and help others do the same.

So, if you are into New Years resolutions like me, try to make a resolution to prioritize your mental health in this upcoming year. You deserve to be happy and healthy in 2018! And if you can, join me and many incredible others in the fight against the stigma of mental illness and mental health!

Dana is a chapter leader at Loyola University of Maryland and a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee.

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