6: Step INSIDE my head

Beautiful portraits and short stories of teens speaking out on mental health

10: depression on campus

Encouraging students & their families to talk openly about mental health

14: bullies, the bullied & self pity

Stop feeling sorry for yourself - mental health efforts of bullying

16: suicide & social media

Breaking the rapid growth of cyber bullying and adolescent suicides

18: playing it safe online

Teaching parents & teens how to surf safely online


Equine assisted therapy will help you greet your day with intention, focus & love

28: defining trauma

The who, how and what of teen trauma

30: the power of putting yourself first

Achieve your goals with self care

36: the good night's sleep guide

Monitoring your sleep habits and realizing how to regulate them for a good night's rest




Therapists can be very helpful in process of emotional healing.Sometimes, emotional scars from childhood and early adulthood get between us and our ability to sense and respond to the full spectrum of life and its feelings. If you’ve got some emotional damage or baggage, you’re tethered to the past. You’ll know it because the same wrong situations keep recurring in your life, like bad dreams you just can’t shake. It isn’t weakness to look for help, it’s self-enabling and very intelligent. Believe me, the health of your psyche holds huge sway over your present and future happiness. If you even suspect a problem, have the courage to get it checked out. – Thomas Leonard


This is your strongest weapon for overcoming the split second power of the fear system.
You can’t rise above fear without courage, because fear is hardwired into your neural circuitry. There is no such thing as a “fear-ectomy.” If fear is eternally programmed into your brain, though, so is courage. It comes from the neocortex and is a product of the spirit, the intellect, and the higher emotions of love and generosity. It is nature’s natural balance for the fear that has helped us survive. It’s the quality that allows us to thrive. A sense of freedom. Nothing fills the soul like freedom. Freedom is choice, and choice is what makes us human. When we choose, we define who we are. – Dan Baker, PHD


“Our brains respond and grow much better when we are receiving tenderness. It’s not just as a child that tenderness is needed from your caregivers; our brains need tenderness throughout our lives. So part of brain health is about treating ourselves tenderly. We need a psychological mother within us to hold ourselves tenderly so we can take our next best step.” – The late Ann Pardo, who counseled and touched countless lives for more than three decades.

“Cultivate mindfulness in daily life by increasing your awareness of what is happening inwardly and outwardly moment-by-moment. Instead of rushing through things automatically, take notice of your senses, what you’re thinking or feeling, what’s happening with your body and what’s happening around you. Be fully engaged in that moment in life.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

“If we have a more positive mental attitude, then even when surrounded by hostility, we shall not lack inner peace. On the other hand, if our mental attitude is more negative, influenced by fear, suspicion, helplessness or self-loathing, even when surrounded by our best friends in a nice atmosphere and comfortable surroundings, we shall not be happy.” – HH The Dalai Lama

"The greatest strength is gentleness." – Iroquois Proverb

”If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius Antoninus


Dealing with Depression on Campus

Encouraging students & their families to talk openly about mental health

By Susan M. Hunter

Half of all college student s experience depression,” states Alison Malmon, founder and CEO of Active Minds, a national advocacy organization committed to opening the conversation about mental health issues on the college campus. “When I tell adults this statistic,” says Malmon, “it’s a shocking revelation. But when I tell college students, they are not at all surprised. They know exactly how they feel and they feel overwhelmed.”

Yet it is still hard to talk about the down time and the dark times in a student’s life. Even in the year 2015. There is a traditional and residual campus code of silence and stigma around a wide spectrum of mental health issues, from depression to suicide, and more recently trauma suffered from sexual assault and substance abuse on campus. The conversation is still needed. Alison Malmon speaks directly from her own student experience. “When I was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania my older brother Brian died of suicide. I suddenly became an only child and I questioned my own place in my family, in college, in life. On the outside Brian was a high performing student, with a 3.8 GPA, on the dean’s list, president of a popular campus organization. But he was silent about his inner troubles and hid them from everyone, including me, my parents, his professors and his friends at college. Brian dealt with this on his own, because he thought it was his fault and he was the only one struggling with depression. When he finally reached out for help, his
despair was too deep and we lost him.”

Ironically, Malmon was taking an abnormal psychology class the semester her brother died, studying about schizophrenia, bi-polar disorders, eating disorders, about the onset of various mental health issues, the stages of treatment and recovery. “Professors,” she says, “explained all of this, but they never personalized the statistics. They never said, for instance, ‘by the way, in this room, one in four of you is probably struggling with this.’”

Malmon knew Penn students were also not talking openly about mental health issues, although many were affected. She wanted to encourage students who needed help to seek it early, and prevent future tragedies like the one that took her brother’s life. She wanted to change the culture of silence. “In 2000 when I was a freshman, there were no other groups,” she says, “addressing stigma and education about mental health issues on campus.” 

She sought, unsuccessfully, existing groups she could bring to campus to address the issues. By her junior year she had to create her own model and formed what was then known as Open Minds. This campus organization would become Alison’s main project as a psychology major. The first chapter at Penn would expand to a second chapter at Georgetown University and to other chapters on other campuses before she graduated. The open discussion was gaining momentum. In her senior year Alison was trying to figure out what she would do with her major, and, as a professional. Going on to grad school to become a clinician was an option, treating people with issues that impact all of us on a daily basis. By the end of senior year, however, she realized she could make her life’s work out of the start-up organization she had founded on campus. “I began to think I could pursue
changing the public perception about mental health issues through education and advocacy on campuses all across the country. This led to starting a nonprofit and doing the work I do now.”

In the summer of 2003 Malmon renamed the organization Active Minds to reflect the more progressive stance of advocacy. She established it as a 501(c) 3, with national headquarters in Washington, DC. Student chapters are currently on more than 400 college campuses across the US, and in Canada and Australia, with the national office providing leadership training, support, and programming. One program, Step Inside My Head, a photo journal exhibit created in partnership with Billy Howard, a Fellow at the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program, is featured in a companion article in this issue of Mental Fitness Magazine.

Silence Kills. Send Silence Packing

An earlier and ongoing program that draws national attention in the spring and fall is the annual Send Silence Packing tour. The concept for this demonstration/installation grew out of the tragic statistic that suicide is the second-leading cause of death of college students. The commonly reported number of annual student suicides is 1100. The idea was to make this real and resonant by placing 1100 backpacks, the quintessential student accessory, in a large public space (the size of half a football field), with pictures and stories of students who had taken their lives attached to each backpack.

Everyone on campus, as well as the public, is welcomed into this space every year on campuses that apply to be part of the tour. The symbolic and reverent presence of those who have lost their lives within the living community is a powerful reminder of the need to break the silence and stigma around mental health suffering that can lead to suicide. It helps also redress the other horrifying knowledge that the vast majority (over 90%) of those who commit suicide struggle with mental illness that is undiagnosed.

Send Silence Packing was created by Active Minds and modeled after the effective Aids Quilt program that raised awareness, compassion and treatment for another unspoken human tragedy of the time. Send Silence Packing was inaugurated in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, where the first 1100 backpacks were assembled. All backpacks and profiles are donations from family members or friends of students who had died by suicide. Other public spaces that have exhibited the Send Silence Packing campaign include the Flat Iron Plaza in Manhattan and the State House in Oklahoma City. The 2015 spring tour includes 11 campuses from Maine to the Midwest.

Mark a Safe Place. Take The Mental Health Unity Pledge

Pledges can be powerful. We take them when we marry. When we assume office. When we become citizens. When we salute our flag. However, a social service pledge is usually different, with expectations of a monetary donation and usually within a predesignated level of giving. But what if you just filled out an online form and took a pledge to support anyone who is suffering from mental illness, to help them get the help they need, provide a safe space to discuss mental health issues and speak out against stigma? And then what if you placed the Mental Health Unity Pledge sticker you received from Active Minds on your computer or in your window, office, dorm room or on your door frame for everyone to see?

This is exactly the support and solidarity program that Kristin Kosyluk created as she served as an Active Minds Emerging Scholar in 2011. Kosyluk was a third year doctoral student with Dr. Patrick Corrigan at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Inspired by stickers marking safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community, she developed the Mental Health Unity Sticker through extensive qualitative and quantitative research to promote an environment of solidarity and support on college campuses for individuals who may be dealing with mental health concerns.

Dr. Kristin Kosyluk now serves as a visiting Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. Active Minds’ Mental Health Unity Pledge is generously supported by Dr. Patrick Corrigan and his National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment and The Scattergood Foundation for Behavioral Health.

"We Don't Sit Back. We Won't Be Silent."

These words by Alison Malmon reveal the forward thinking and caring concern of Active Minds. “I have always believed,” she says, “Active Minds is focused on the area where we can effect the most change—the students. I still believe it.” Now 14 years after establishing the first chapter, Malmon sees the fruits of her labor. The momentum started at the beginning of the 21st century has paid off. “There is an entire generation of high school and college students,” she states, “who are fed up with the stigma around mental health, fed up with the silence. Students are more open about their own experiences with mental health issues and want to share these to let their peers know they are not alone. I also see exemplary professors recognizing and supporting students as developing people, as well as budding scholars. Even colleges and universities are beginning to understand the role of the institution also includes the well-being of its students.”

However, Malmon is very aware that entering college students are a revolving demographic. Freshmen appear every year on campus, another class of teenagers away from home for the first time in their lives. They are essentially alone. Everything is new, untried and TBD, their class schedules, their professors, their social life and extracurricular activities, their place in this new space. A lot of issues don’t become evident until students have to face them on their own. And some students still believe they should be able to solve any problem themselves and they are afraid of asking for help. On campuses across the nation, Active Minds student chapters continue to open up the conversation and provide a common space for these incoming freshmen and the whole student body. “We connect people,” says Malmon, “we connect them to the college counseling center, we connect them to the issues of mental health, we connect them to the need to break the silence and the stigma through advocacy and education and mentorships.” When asked how Active Minds recruits new chapters, Malmon simply says, “We don’t recruit. There are chapters waiting in line to come on board and capacity is our only restraint.” Then she adds, “we built it and they keep coming.”