Active Minds is a college student-based organization started in a dorm room by 21-year-old college student Alison Malmon at the University of Pennsylvania. The impetus, unfortunately, was the suicidal passing of her then 22-year-old brother. That was fifteeen years ago. Since then, Alison and Active Minds have taken this tragedy and turned it into a student-run movement… a movement to “empower students to change the perception about mental health on college campuses.” Through their actions, the members of Active Minds have raised the level of both discourse and action in the world of mental health awareness.
Now on more than 400 college campuses across America, the organization participates in a wide variety of activities, all designed to raise awareness and get people the help they need. They sponsor a series of active awareness campaigns, including: a National Day Without Stigma (10/5/15), Stress Less Week (2/22-2/28), Eating Disorders Awareness, and a special campaign to bring attention to the issue of mental health among our military veterans.
But one of their most impactful projects has been, Send Silence Packing, a nationwide traveling exhibit born in 2008 to deliver a very clear and poignant message about suicide. In the words of one Fordham University Professor who experienced “Send Silence Packing” for the first time recently, “Today, Fordham hosted an exhibit by Active Minds, representing the 1100 or so students who commit suicide annually in the US. 1100 backpacks rest owner-less on the lawn, some filled with the belongings of real people, supplied along with information about those lost persons by their families. It was very moving and brought me to tears, as any one of them could be one of my students. You can interact with the backpacks by going through them gently and reading the memories there. Amazing. And since we were talking about Kant on suicide today in class, it was timely.” The visual impact is immediate with the goal of provoking thought and ultimately, action. The exhibit has traveled to more than 70 cities with astounding results. Statistics from the Active Minds website: “Ninety-one percent of survey respondents rate the display as powerful or very powerful and 83 percent report that it is educational. Our evaluations also show that the majority of visitors tell three or more people about Send Silence Packing and many reach out to a friend in need or seek help for themselves as a result of seeing the program.”
Keep an eye out for the exhibit in your city… and spread the word!