The University of South Carolina was recently awarded the Active Minds Healthy Campus Award in recognition of their work on mental health. This honor is shared by only seven other universities nationwide, and commemorates colleges that take their students’ health to heart.
“Colleges that are recognized with the Healthy Campus Award stand out because they invest in students’ physical and mental health on a comprehensive scale and for the long term," said founder and executive director of Active Minds Alison Malmon in a press release.
“Award winners are assessed and selected by a panel of prominent researchers and health and higher education experts,” the release said.
Active Minds is a national non-profit that promotes wellness for all students across the nation. USC has its own chapter of the organization advocating for student health with a focus on mental illness awareness.
Assistant Director for Healthy Carolina Initiative Jackie Knight submitted USC's application, and she was a part of the collaborative that presented the university to the judges. The group has been participating since the creation of the award in 2015. USC was a finalist in 2016 and 2017, but it wasn’t until 2018 that the university won.
In Knight’s mind, the addition of a student-made video showcasing USC’s dedication to wellness as well as the recent hiring of the Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation to Student Health Services made USC stand out.
“Having that position really allowed us to connect evidence-based strategies to the actual learning outcomes,” she said.
USC's inclusive view of a main goal of physical health with a stress of mental and sexual wellbeing, along with safety for marginalized groups, veterans and food-insecure students set South Carolina apart as true advocates of a healthy college.
“You can't neglect one area of your health, because it’s going to impact the rest of your whole wellbeing,” Knight said.
When fifth-year hospitality student Nick Spiak heard USC won the Active Minds Healthy Campus Award, he wasn’t surprised.
“I definitely think they do their best to try and promote health and wellness here at USC,” Spiak said.
In the fall semester, the Health and Wellness Center will continue to advocate for its cause. One new initiative funded by USC is receiving two grants to continue the Mental Health Matters campaign, and create a podcast called “Hear Me Out: Mental Health Matters.”
Though Spiak’s time at USC is almost over, he has advice for students that are just arriving on campus. “Don’t let the stress of school get to you. It’s really easy to just stop really caring and go to Chick-Fil-A every day and just eat comfort food 'cause you're feeling bad,” says Spiak, “But I think USC makes a real good effort to try and make it as easy as possible, giving freshman on campus options that are very healthy.”