You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
In the spring of 2012, Kyle Marchuk ’11 was devastated with the loss of one of his best friends who took his own life. That loss became the motivation and inspiration for Kyle to start an Active Minds chapter at Auburn. “I saw the effect it had on myself and my community,” said Kyle. “It was a time of sorrow and mourning that I will never forget and I hope others never have to experience.”
As Kyle returned for his fall semester at Auburn, he began to compile some research about mental health awareness. He came upon the national non-profit organization Active Minds whose mission is “to utilize the student voice to help change the conversation about mental health awareness on college campuses.” After contacting representatives of the organizations and working with faculty and staff at Auburn, Kyle’s goal of raising mental health awareness became more and more real. “After attending a leadership conference in the summer of 2013 called LeaderShape, I was able to develop my vision of what is now Active Minds Auburn,” said Kyle. “I would recommend any future college student to go on this leadership retreat if possible. It was a life changing experience!”
Kyle spent the entire summer working hard and persevering developing the bylaws, constitutions, and paperwork. The organization became official on campus and is now in its second year with over 200 members. Active Minds provides counseling, group discussion, and raises awareness for mental health diseases. “Everything we do revolves around the mission statement,” said Kyle. “We want to start the conversation, change the conversation, and eventually remove the stigma surrounding mental health.”
Kyle and Auburn’s chapter of Active Minds, have a bright future of success with helping young adults with mental health. “Already, we have helped to get two new counselors hired in the past year and we want the students to realize the opportunity they have at their disposal,” said Kyle. “This past year we combined with some other departments on campus and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to host a two mile fundraiser walk for mental health awareness.” Kyla and his team raised over $15,000 for AFSP and hope to have the walk become a tradition at Auburn.
Kyle is still connected to BT and receives a lot of support from the members of his high school community. “I am always glad to have them in my life because they represent the BT family for me when I am here at Auburn, and I can always rely on them for constant support,” Kyle said speaking of his fellow 2011 graduates who attend Auburn. “Many BT alum at Auburn have shown their support for Active Minds through attendance at events and meetings, sharing social media posts, and monetary donations as well.”
Kyle hopes to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and the fear people have about coming forward and admitting they have a problem and need help. Through Active Minds, he has taken a life changing event and used it to strengthen not only himself, but his community. He encourages people to speak up and seek help. “Do not let your mental health illness be your identity,” stated Kyle. “You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, and a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle. Remain steadfast in hope and trust in your friends, your family, and most importantly your faith. Spark a change and help fight the stigmas around mental health.”