Peddling for progress: Sami Sorid forms her own non-profit organization to increase mental health awareness

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COURTESY PHOTO / SAMI SORID
COURTESY PHOTO / SAMI SORID

Three years ago, Sami Sorid ’22 became the founder of the nonprofit Move for Mental Health, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness for those in need of mental health resources by raising money through physical activity. In addition to leading this mission, Sorid is president of Active Minds on the College of William and Mary’s campus, a member of Delta Gamma sorority and researches for the psychology department.  

Based in New Jersey, Move for Mental Health kicked off in 2017 with their first bike ride event, inspired by Sorid’s love for cycling. Volunteers and members gathered to cycle, walk and raise awareness for mental health causes. There were various route options available to allow for cyclists of all skill levels to take part. In total, the event garnered over 250 participants.  

Sorid realized her passion for cycling six years ago while participating in team charity rides for the American Cancer Society and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. However, she didn’t find an organization that connected her passions for cycling and mental health, so she decided to create her own. 

“I really felt that there was a need for something for mental health,” Sorid said. “Because I just had always also had a passion for mental health, and I wanted to kind of bring those two things together.”  

To fill this gap, Sorid began creating the structure of Move for Mental Health with the help of her family. Since their first event, the nonprofit has hosted a second bike ride in summer 2019 and planned to host a third bike ride event this past summer but had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We’re planning things like movie screenings, other awareness initiatives during the pandemic,” Sorid said. “We did a letter-writing campaign where we sent out stamps and letters, and people could write a letter to somebody that they thought could use one.”  

Active Minds, another organization with which Sorid is involved, is currently running a week-long t-shirt sale until Oct. 30. The proceeds will go to the Loveland Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money to cover therapy and mental health service costs for Black women and girls.  

“It’s a way to raise awareness and get that conversation started on campus,” Sorid said.  

The primary mission statement of Move for Mental Health focuses on awareness. Sorid emphasized the importance of this in discussing her own struggles with mental health. 

“I was diagnosed with OCD when I was about three years old — Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — and it had impacted my life a ton when I was little, and it was super noticeable,” Sorid said. “I was, you know, stopped from doing a lot of things, and as I grew up, my parents helped me find an amazing psychologist.”

“I was diagnosed with OCD when I was about three years old — Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — and it had impacted my life a ton when I was little, and it was super noticeable,” Sorid said. “I was, you know, stopped from doing a lot of things, and as I grew up, my parents helped me find an amazing psychologist.”  

The impact of professional help on her life could not be understated. 

“I learned ways to cope and take care of myself,” Sorid said. “I once thought I wouldn’t even be able to maybe even attend college. Now, I’m able to go to William and Mary and be able to do the stuff that I would love to do.” 

Sorid understands the barriers that many people face in seeking help and treatment. She wants to help others in need who may not be able to receive the same kind of help that  she had.   

“Some people go for so long either not knowing that they are struggling with a mental illness or knowing, but not being able to access healthcare or therapy or things like,” Sorid said. “And I realized that there was a need for awareness. That’s, like, the first step, because of the stigma that’s unfortunately attached to mental health.”   

By  creating a dialogue in her community at home and on the College’s campus, Sorid hopes to break these stigmas, as well as the barriers that accompany them. Sorid’s work with Active Minds and Move for Mental Health has brought her a stronger sense of connection and community. 

“I got to talk to so many people there,” Sorid said. “That was my favorite part, that they would come up to me and open up and say, ‘You know, I haven’t really said this to anybody, but I feel really comfortable because of, you know, the mission that the organization is doing.’”  

Sorid hopes that Move for Mental Health will remain available as a resource for those in need and a vehicle to normalize the conversation about mental health. She hopes that more people would join and get involved with Active Minds and Move for Mental Health in order to create a community of awareness and compassion. 

Sorid spoke on the importance of people seeking help when struggling through a mental illness and the value that comes from talking about it.   

“I would say that, definitely, like, an emphasis point is that it’s okay to reach out for help, especially during this time,” Sorid said. “Like, I’ve heard so many stories and, you know, experienced this myself with the, you know, just the general anxiety and stress that this time period has brought to a lot of students and a lot of people. And, I think it’s so important to just be aware of that and reach out to a friend. Reach out to the counseling center. Reach out to Active Minds.”

“I would say that, definitely, like, an emphasis point is that it’s okay to reach out for help, especially during this time,” Sorid said. “Like, I’ve heard so many stories and, you know, experienced this myself with the, you know, just the general anxiety and stress that this time period has brought to a lot of students and a lot of people. And, I think it’s so important to just be aware of that and reach out to a friend. Reach out to the counseling center. Reach out to Active Minds.”