Illuminated by radiating blue light from glow sticks, students gathered around the Armillary Sphere, hand-in- hand, and stood in silence at the “Walk Into the Light” Vigil last Friday night.
Active Minds, a club dedicated to spreading mental-health awareness and educating stu- dents on mental health related topics, hosted the event in hon- or of Mental Illness Awareness Week. The club is part a larger nonprofit organization, also called Active Minds, that proposes several activities for their college and high school branch- es to host throughout the year, including this event.
“The fact that mental illness is not talked about enough on our campus is a serious problem. People are getting into so many things in fall and settling in and everyone’s getting stressed out, so we thought it was a really good time to bring everyone into the light,” said Grace Rademacher ’18, a board member of Active Minds. “There’s just this one piece from [The Phillipian’s] State of the Academy that clearly [states] our campus has issues with mental health. [When] it’s not talked about, it’s very isolating, I think, and it’s also very unhealthy.”
During the vigil, students chatted about mental health, awareness, and schoolwork as they walked down the Vista, creating a starkly different atmosphere from traditionally-silent vigils.
“I really like the idea that we were talking to each other as we were walking,” said Tiffany Chang ’19, a participant in the walk. “I think that it might be powerful if we had walked in silence, but I also think of
the very fact that we were en- couraged to talk to each other cultivated an atmosphere of openness. Even if we weren’t talking about mental health, we were just getting to know other people who cared about similar things.”
After walking from Samuel Phillips Hall to the Armillary Sphere on the Great Lawn, the participants formed a circle around the structure and joined hands. They reflected in silence as Active Minds’ board members spoke about the significance of raising mental-health awareness. Following the end of the vigil, everyone took all of the glow sticks and placed them on the steps of the Armillary Sphere, creating a hypnotizing display of lights.
“[I joined the walk] be- cause, recently, I’ve become aware of how much of a prob- lem [mental illness] is for some people to deal with. Coming to Andover has been great, but it’s been very challenging at some parts, and not just academical- ly, but all around,” said Emma Slibeck ’20, a participant in the walk. “Having the glowsticks just made it more magical and I thought the speech by the sphere was especially heart- warming.”
Other than raising aware- ness about mental health, Active Minds also addresses specific mental health issues at Andover.
“I joined [Active Minds] because [on campus, mental health] is a piece of our culture that I have issues with. It’s a piece of our culture that just really irritates me that we don’t speak about this and it’s silenced for some reason be- cause of our culture of excellence. Because everyone’s like,
‘I want to be perfect, I want to be strong, I want to be the Andover student and not have any weaknesses,’ and that’s not how people work,” said Rademacher.