Mental Health is an aspect of wellness that is often times overlooked or ignored. On campus, the Active Minds organization hopes to change that and lead to positive improvements in rhetoric and advocacy for mental health by bringing the founder of the national organization to campus to speak to students about the group and mental health as a whole.
Alison Malmon visited campus on April 2nd to have a discussion with students about her vision for Active Minds as well as how to properly go about talking about Mental Health. She began her speech with a personal story regarding her brother who suffered incredibly serious, yet undiagnosed mental health issues. When her brother tragically lost his life to the illness, she soon began to search for groups to help spread awareness for depression and other mental health illnesses. After finding none, she made her own and Active Minds was formed.
Her brother, Brian Malmon, was a smart, popular, and fun student through high school and college. In the beginning of his freshman year at Columbia University, he started struggling with depression and psychosis but concealed his symptoms from everyone around him for three years. In the middle of his senior year, he returned home and began receiving treatment for what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder.
His underlying depression was left untreated and only worsened as he continued to hide his distress from his friends. “The depression had created a space for him where he felt like he was the only one, that all of it was his fault,” said Alison.
A year and a half later on March 24, 2000, as Alison was wrapping up her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, Brian ended his life.
“One of every five students lives with a mental health condition, but stigma and shame were preventing students from reaching out,” Alison explained to the group.
According to Active Minds’ mission statement, “within two years of her founding the group, as the number of chapters continued to increase and Alison graduated from college, the group grew as more and more students realized that others shared their concerns. Kate Hard, a friend of Alison’s, transferred to Georgetown University and founded the group’s second chapter there. Soon Alison was fielding calls from all over the country from students and administrators wanting to do something on their own campuses.”
A national office was established in Washington, DC. where Alison worked at prior to moving out West.
After explaining a bit about the group itself, the conversation turned toward the conversation surrounding mental health. How can Denison help shift the conversation and rhetoric used to better student health as a whole? With suicide being the number two leading cause of death in college students, Active Minds is hoping to increase dialogue and offer an opportunity for students who are struggling to find a group that can truly help them. It can be hard to seek help out of fear of embarrassment, pride, or just ignorance of the problems at hand. Active Minds’ goal is to change that and allow for all students to feel comfortable acknowledging, talking, and seeking help for mental health concerns. College is one of the most stressful times in a college students career, and with Alison Malmon’s speech, the group hopes to shift the focus of mental health from being ignored as it has historically been, to being discussed and truly being fought back against. Alison’s purpose at Denison was to explain and help bring with her the conversation of mental health to help make Denison a safer, healthier, and overall better campus. Active Minds will continue to advocate for mental health and hope that the student body will join in on this overlooked, yet important health epidemic.