Feature Story

Expanding an ‘Active Mind’

December 3, 2014 – by Spenser Hickey ’15

Ohio Wesleyan seniors Lauren Kiebler (left), Allison Weinig, and Jessica Brewer attended the recent Active Minds National Conference. The national, nonprofit organization strives to be the young adult voice in mental health advocacy. (Photo courtesy of Allison Weinig ’15)

Since Allison ‘Ali’ Weinig ’15 came to Ohio Wesleyan almost four years ago, improving mental health awareness and services have been a major career goal.

And she’s put this interest into practice, both as a member of OWU’s chapter of Active Minds and through internships with central Ohio-based lobbying groups and government agencies. She also recently represented OWU Active Minds at the organization’s national conference – using a “Transform Your Campus” grant – and she hopes to affect mental health services here as a result.

“It was very interesting,” Weinig says. “I learned a lot about implementing policy changes, how to do so and how to improve mental health around campus and reduce the stigma, so I have some goals.”

One idea is a pre-orientation program that helps new students handle situations involving mental health among peer groups, which she says is “really relevant to college.”

“The collegiate level is one of the best places to start, especially while the mind is still learning and growing.”

“Ali has done a lot with Active Minds,” says club president Ava Fiddle ’15, who noted Weinig’s leadership in organizing last year’s campus screening of Silver Linings Playbook, an Oscar-nominated film about experiences with bipolar disorder. “(Ali) has been a member for a long time; she always goes to all the events.”

Weinig also currently interns with the Ohio State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, helping organize a monthly learning series on cultural competency that informs professionals on how mental health issues are viewed in different ethnic communities.

It’s an area of particular interest for Weinig, also public relations officer with OWU’s VIVA LatinoAmerica club.

“This is pretty ideal for me,” she says of her internship, which she received after participating in a summer conference through Ohio State University. The summer conference, in turn, had been recommended to her after an internship with the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, a group that advocates for mental health legislation on behalf of county departments.

The summer conference was “NEW Leadership Ohio,” held through OSU’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs to increase women’s representation in elected office. The weeklong event guided the 30 female college students in networking and public speaking, and they met current U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader (D-CA); Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D-25th District); and Ohio State Rep. Christina Hagen (R-50th District).

“I met a lot of great people, did a lot of networking, and learned a lot of great steps on how to implement policies and get involved in politics,” says Weinig, who may get involved in actual politics, rather than just advocacy, as a result of the conference.

“That’s an interest of mine, definitely getting involved in legislation, policy making, and who knows?”

In the meantime, Weinig hopes to continue raising awareness and advocating for de-stigmatization of those experiencing mental illness, something she notes affect one in four people.