On Friday, Sept. 18, Southern’s Mental Health Club, better known as Empowering Minds, held its second “Coffee and Conversations” meeting of the Fall 2020 semester. The gatherings began at the beginning of the 2019–2020 school year and are approaching their tenth event, scheduled for Oct. 9.
Mental Health Club President Nathan Martin, a senior nursing major, said the push for starting the club emerged after witnessing some of his peers struggle with various mental health issues. According to Martin, the concept of meeting together over coffee was a collaborative effort by last year’s club officers.
“The mission of the club is to encourage students to actively engage in conversation about their mental health and break the negative stigma associated with seeking help,” Martin said. “Our ‘Coffee and Conversations’ events are my favorite. We get together, get some drinks and discuss a topic pertaining to mental health.”
At the club’s Sept. 18 meeting, students came together at Wired Coffee Bar in Ooltewah and received a free beverage of choice, paid in full by the club. According to Martin, officers had previously provided transportation for those who need it, but due to COVID-19, they have been asked to cease transporting students to events.
“All the money for the drinks comes straight out of the club’s funds,” Martin said. “We have hosted our meetings at Cadence Coffee Company, The Camp House, Wired Coffee Bar and Oaks Coffee House. We provided transportation for anyone that needed it last semester. But unfortunately, we have been asked to stop transporting students because it’s hard to keep six feet away from each other while in a car.”
In an Instagram poll conducted by the Accent, five out of 193 participants (3%) said that they have attended the “Coffee and Conversation” meetings, while 188 (97%) said they have yet to attend.
Sophomore social work major Angelina Jones said she attended one “Coffee and Conversations” meeting at Wired Coffee Bar.
“Free coffee caught my eye, and I liked that the club was about mental health,” Jones said. “[At the first meeting I attended,] I just told the barista I was with Empowering Minds and got to pick whatever drink I wanted.”
Jones said they did an activity at the icebreaker meeting, where each person was paired up with someone who would become their mental health check-in buddy.
“The first time I went was just an icebreaker day where we got to know each other,” Jones said. “This time around, we picked names. I got Nathan. I’m his ‘buddy,’ so I text him regularly and make sure he’s doing well.”
While the location is still to be determined, Martin said the next “Coffee and Conversations” meeting will be on Oct. 9. For more information visit @empoweringminds_sau on Instagram or email Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathan Martin, Sierra Ureta, Andrea McCraw, Taylor Baker, and Dominik Werner — Empowering Mind officers. Photo by Xander Ordinola.