There are plenty of exciting things about high school and college: the proximity of a community of your peers, lasting bonds with educators and mentors, the beauty and energy of a campus.
But during these formative periods in their lives, students can still feel alone and distressed. Between the pressure of classes, work and extracurriculars, and the uncertainty of the world beyond school, it’s easy to imagine how students’ internal struggles can feel overwhelming. And whether in times of global calm or crisis, it’s essential to have support networks to lean on when life feels too heavy — long before those feelings escalate to emergency.
That’s why we’re excited to highlight the work of Active Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring no one struggles alone with their mental health. This organization is on a mission to help young people feel empowered to speak up about their experiences and seek the help they need to live long, fulfilling lives on campus and beyond.
What is Active Minds?
Active Minds is America’s “premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults.” They focus on people ages 14–25 with education, research, and advocacy initiatives that include campus speakers, wellness in the workplace presentations, policy change efforts, and more.
Active Minds History
The catalyst for Active Minds is partly rooted in tragedy. When Alison Malmon’s older brother died by suicide in 2000, she understood that his silent struggle with his mental health was an experience shared by thousands of young people. Amid her grief, she felt compelled to help people with similar challenges feel supported and encouraged to move forward and heal.
She began by forming a student support group at her campus, University of Pennsylvania, aiming to reframe seeking help as a sign of strength rather than a source of shame. Other campus chapters quickly began to develop as students learned more about her approach and expressed interest in getting their schools involved. Malmon established a national office for the organization in Washington, D.C. In 2003, Active Minds was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3).
How Active Minds Gives Back
Active Minds offers support through many types of programs designed to address the challenges that high school and college students face in various aspects of their lives.
Active Minds @ Work
Active Minds @ Work “offers simple and actionable tools to employees and employers, designed to improve the culture of mental health in high-performing environments.” This program currently consists of virtual events including workshops on preventing burnout and inspiring a mental health-first workplace culture.
Active Minds Speakers
Active Minds hosts professional speakers to bring hope through “engaging, encouraging, and safe mental health education that’s tailored for students, young adults, educators, professional groups, parents, and other audiences.” Over a million people have heard from Active Minds speakers since this program’s kickoff in 2009.
Send Silence Packing
A crucial element of supporting individuals as they navigate experiences with mental illness is encouraging people to share those experiences. Silence only hinders healing, and it’s with this in mind that Active Minds has toured this particular exhibit, which “encourages people to seek out resources for themselves, friends, or loved ones. Trained professionals are on hand at each stop and thousands of mental health resources are distributed.”
Active Minds has also offered a virtual event, Behind the Backpacks, which explores the impact of suicide and ways to “create a new and better culture around mental health” that’s ultimately life-affirming and life-saving.
Impact and Future Plans for Active Minds
It’s heartening to reflect on how much Active Minds has accomplished since 2003. Here’s just a snapshot of the nonprofit’s impact:
- Helped over 8 million students
- Created 550+ campus chapters
- Held over 7,800 events “for mental health awareness and action”
- Policy changes enacted at over 100 campuses based on Active Minds tools
- 8 new national partners in 2019
- Working toward 1,000 campuses with a significant Active Minds presence by 2022
Active Minds has continued to share resources to support young people who are experiencing heightened mental health challenges amid the distress of the pandemic, and will continue to do its important work to connect communities, inspire hope, and save lives in the years to come.
How to Support Active Minds
As its name suggests, Active Minds offers its supporters myriad ways to lend a hand and make a difference. You can donate directly to the nonprofit via their website, donate your cash back to Active Minds with Giving Assistant when shopping online, or explore other giving options. You can also look into ways to take action, including starting your own campus chapter, spreading the word as an Active Minds Amplifier, and more.
With the help of Active Minds and everyone working alongside their efforts, we can reshape the conversation around mental health. By donating to this organization, you’re contributing to a cultural shift that protects and benefits millions of lives through unconditional love, resource sharing, and careful community support.
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