Alison Malmon Presents Mental Health Awareness Speech

October 02, 2009

Alison Malmon discussed mental health awareness on Wednesday, September 30 in the Mount Union College Theatre.  Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds, seeks to combat the stigma of mental illness by promoting mental awareness on college campuses.

Active Minds, with over 215 chapters in 40 states, as well as in Canada, Washington D.C. andAlison Malmon Australia, is the only national organization run to utilize the student voice.  Malmon discussed that she started the organization during her junior year at Pennsylvania State, just a few years after her brother committed suicide.

“For those of you who haven’t experienced suicide, I can’t explain the horror, pain and loss that my family and I suffer and are still suffering,” said Malmon.

Her brother, Brian, only four years older than she, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder during his senior year at Columbia University.  Like most young adults, Brian thought it was his fault and that he wasn’t worthy of help.

Malmon explained that students are under a lot of pressure and stress while at college, but depression and anxiety don’t need to control students.  College is to be the time of one’s life, but students need to form social networks so that they can balance all aspects of life, including academics, family and friends.

“I would often hear about mental illness disorder on the news,” said Malmon.  “But it was as if no one was doing anything about it.”  She explained that the same number of people who are suffering from diabetes are also suffering from mental illness, but issues on mental illness are rarely addressed.

Statistics show that 27 percent of college students experience depression, and one in four families have someone with a mental illness.  Further, 1.5 million young adults have contemplated suicide, and someone dies by suicide every 18 minutes.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death, and the second leading cause of death among college students.

The mission of Active Minds is to incite and unite students through advocating the student voice.  The non-profit organization seeks to combat the stigma by preventing tragedies and providing help.  Active Minds offers many forms of help, including stress relief during final exams, depression screening, coffee house gatherings, a depression hotline, as well as the “Silence Stigma” and “Send Silence Packing” campaigns.

“We don’t all have mental illness,” said Malmon.  “But we all have mental health.  We need to describe ourselves as people and stop defining ourselves by our problems and life experiences.”

Malmon encouraged students to embrace mental health disorders in the same way that people address and embrace physical health issues.  In order to raise awareness on the college campus, students must share their stories and raise their voice.

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