October 2, 2008

C.U. Minds Matters Hosts Talk To Raise Mental Health Awareness

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Yesterday, Alison Malmon relayed how her world came tumbling down in March 2000 when her brother, Brian, committed suicide. Malmon, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, spoke to students in The Straight about how she has since dedicated her life to raising awareness of the importance of mental health.
A year following her brother’s death, Malmon concentrated her energy toward a positive goal by founding Active Minds, “the nation’s only organization dedicated to using the student voice to raise mental health awareness on college campuses.” Seven years later, Active Minds has grown to 154 chapters with headquarters located in Washington, D.C.
Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for college students according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Malmon’s brother — a student at Columbia University — was part of the 10 percent of those with schizophrenia to commit suicide each year.
Every 18 minutes someone dies from suicide, Malmon cited, leaving, “a group of survivors that will never be the same.”
“I urge you simply to talk,” Malmon said, explaining that a large challenge when treating mental health disorders is getting the patient to open up and speak about his or her problems.
25 percent of women and 10 percent of men will suffer from depression in their lifetime. 19 million people currently suffer from clinical depression — the same number of people that suffer from diabetes.
Active Minds chapters across the United States as well as in Canada strive to raise awareness of these issues that face college students through panel discussions, guest speakers and various stress-relief activities.
“The ultimate slogan that I want you all to remember is to change the conversation about mental health,” Malmon said. “First, we must open up the dialogue. Secondly, we must take a hard look at the language we’re using. Thirdly, we must stand up to the next generation of leaders and fight for understanding, support and infuse our voices in the field.”
One of the more important topics that Malmon stressed was public perception of those with health disorders.
Malmon is currently the executive director of Active Minds. In 2007 she was named Washingtonian of the Year and was recognized by the American Association of University Women as a Woman of Distinction.
This year Active Minds is working on a new Send Silence Packing campaign aiming to collect 1,100 backpacks to represent the 1,100 lives that are lost to suicide each year.
The event was sponsored by Cornell Minds Matters, which was founded three and a half years ago.