The University of Nicosia Medical School is the first school in Europe to officially have a registered campus chapter of the American non-profit organisation Active Minds, Inc., a mental health awareness group dedicated to the elimination of the stigma surrounding mental illness with the following mission as stated on their official website:
The mission of Active Minds is to utilize the student voice to raise awareness about mental health on college campuses. Active Minds chapters fulfill this mission by:
- Increasing students’ awareness of mental health issues and symptoms of mental health disorders
- Providing information about available resources
- Encouraging students to seek help as soon as help is needed
- Serving as a liaison between students and the mental health community (i.e. counseling center)
The chapter at The University of Nicosia Medical School registered with Assistant Professor Anna Polyniki as the academic advisor in December 2015, and since then has enjoyed a wonderful start. The club has been meeting once a month to discuss various topics on mental health, such as stigma, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and most recently bipolar disorder and depression.
Meetings have also had speakers discuss their experiences and opinions on mental health, such as from the school’s very own Associate Professor Alexia Papageorgiou and Ms Sue Chrysostomou.
The first event held by this chapter was Stress Less Week, a week observed by Active Minds chapters everywhere, dedicated to helping college students deal with stress in a positive and productive manner, and teaching different coping mechanisms and relaxation methods during what is often the most stressful time of the year due to final exams. This year, the week was held from April 17-23. Active Minds at The University of Nicosia Medical School executed this endeavour by having a de-stressing activity each day of the week, such as positive sticky note messages in the bathrooms, laughter yoga, a “colouring book day,” a stress ball-making activity (with proceeds going to Active Minds Inc.), and a cartoon movie night.
Further events are in the planning process for the following year and include a presentation on post-traumatic stress disorder for refugees at the Kofinou Camp, National Day Without Stigma, and Send Silence Packing.