ⓘ Active Minds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students, via peer-to-peer dialogue and interaction. Active ..


ⓘ Active Minds

Active Minds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students, via peer-to-peer dialogue and interaction. Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon in 2003, after her older brother died by suicide in 2000. There are now more than 500 chapters, made up of both national and international high schools and colleges.


1. History

Alison Malmon launched the first student-led chapter of what would become Active Minds in her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, after her older brother, Brian, died by suicide. Brian Malmon appeared to be a successful student at Columbia University, he was a member of the Deans list, and was a leader in many extracurricular activities. However, he was suffering from what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, and was keeping those feelings to himself. After his death, many friends claimed that they had noticed changes in Brian, but were not sure what to say or how to approach the situation, and therefore did nothing. This silence and lack of awareness is what prompted Malmon to start Active Minds.

The organization, originally called "Open Minds", was dedicated to increasing awareness about mental illness. In 2003, when Malmon graduated, she launched Active Minds, Inc as a 501c3 organization. She became the youngest person to receive the Tipper Gore Remember the Children Award from the National Mental Health Association.


2.1. National programs Send Silence Packing

In 2008, Active Minds held the first Send Silence Packing display at the National Mall in Washington DC. The display consists of over 1.000 backpacks laid on the ground in a public space, with personal stories attached. These backpacks represent the lives of 1.100 college students that are lost to suicide each year.


2.2. National programs PostSecretU

This program is similar to PostSecret by Frank Warren, but available exclusively through Active Minds for colleges and universities. It allows students to share secrets anonymously through postcards. These postcards are then shown in a visual art display.


2.3. National programs Stress Less Week

The Active Minds Stress Less Week is a community-based stress relief and awareness program that seeks to curb the ever-increasing trend of stress among college students. The Active Minds website provides a Stress Less Resource Kit with ideas for programming.


2.4. National programs National Day Without Stigma

Occurs on the Monday in October that coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week. On this day, Active Minds encourages students on college campuses to engage in programming like chalking support messages, crushing soda cans, and reaching out to anyone who may be struggling.


3. Other initiatives and awards

Active Minds Speakers

A set of 12 speakers travel around the country and speak to audiences about their experiences with mental health. The speakers typically do about 100 speeches a year and go through intense training before being added to the roster.

National Conference

The first National Conference took place in 2004, and the two-day conference has been held every year since. Young adults and mental health leaders gather to discuss ideas and develop new knowledge and ideas.

Emerging Scholars Fellowship

A six-month fellowship is awarded to students annually by Active Minds, to further their work on mental health projects. Each student selected receives $1.000, which is funded by the Scattergood Foundation.

Healthy Campus Award

This award is given to colleges and universities that are pioneering student health initiatives that prioritize both mental and physical health. It was established in 2016 and is supported by Pegs Foundation.


4.1. Impact studies California college impact study

A study done across 12 California colleges found that increased awareness of Active Minds led to an increase in perceived knowledge about mental health related issues and in helping behaviors. It also led to a decrease in stigma. This study had limitations, however, as it was done on a convenience sample, so the students involved may have been more involved in Active Minds than an average student.


4.2. Impact studies Healthy Minds Study

Another study included 70.000 students at colleges that participated in a Healthy Minds Survey. In this study, Active Minds was found to lower the stigma felt both on a personal and public level, increase knowledge about resources and services, improve attitudes toward medications, and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The study did suggest, however, that Active Minds may not have an increasing effect on already positive mental health. This study was limited by its large sample size, which made significant results more likely.

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