Active Minds – Creating Hope Out of Tragedy. Finding Ways to Make it Okay to Talk About Mental Health and Suicide.

Alison Malmon launched Active Minds as a result of her personal experience in losing her brother to suicide while he was a student at Columbia University.  Active Minds has chapters all over the country at universities and colleges that aim to change the conversation about mental health.  

In today’s Promly Garden Podcast, we interview Pooja Tailor, a student who started a chapter of Active Minds in her own high school.  While many people may know Active Minds to be on college campuses, Pooja has successfully brought Active Minds and conversations about suicide risk and mental health to a much younger population that absolutely needs the support.  Listen here to hear her story.  We are so grateful to Pooja for her time, her honesty, and her willingness to lead conversations and action that provide an opportunity for mental health awareness, support and a safe space to talk about anything in a high school setting. 

Here from Pooja herself about her story and her passion for mental health in a personal essay below.

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My observation in the area of mental health started in middle school and continued through freshman year in my high school health class. I always noticed students around me feeling awkward or dozing off during the mental health unit. Symptoms and warning signs plagued the papers and handouts as the teachers made mental health problems sound not normal. But from my own experiences and from seeing others around me struggle, I know that in reality many people are affected. This cultivated a passion within me to help bring mental health awareness and issues to the forefront. 

Alison K. Malmon founded the Active Minds organization at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 following the suicide of her older brother. Since then many chapters have been formed across the country. During my sophomore year, a few other students and I teamed up with our school psychologist to create our very own Active Minds Chapter. We worked tirelessly and received formal approval and recognition as a school sponsored student club by the end of my sophomore year. Last year as a junior, my friends and I solicited and grew our club membership up to 30 students. We strive to follow Malmon’s mission to increase mental health awareness. As a senior this year, I am able to lead the Active Minds chapter for my high school with that mission in mind.

In our first year as a school recognized  club, I helped plan many events such as “Say Hello” week, “Scare Away the Stigma”, “Stress Less” week, and “Have a Heart for Mental Health” fundraiser. The most memorable event for me was the “Scare Away the Stigma” Event. This week-long event hosted activities every day to spread mental health awareness. I helped coordinate a therapy dogs session in the school which helped students release negative feelings and de-stress. We also placed bubble wrap around the central atrium to help students “stomp out the stigma!” Both of these events created a thought provoking and supportive environment for mental health discussions. During Halloween, the club created and distributed bags of candy with positive mental health messages during lunch. Additionally, we decided to donate any and all club raised money to mental health charities. One of my favorite days was definitely “Pop the Stigma” which campaigned signatures for a pledge ending mental health stigma in exchange for a cup of popcorn.The smell of freshly popped popcorn filled the school all day! Stigmas about mental health were also written on balloons and students were able to physically pop it. It was exciting and funny to hear random large “POP” sounds zinging throughout the atrium. The popping balloons created a buzz around the school as we scared away mental health stigma. It amazed me to see that at the end of the week, the whole bulletin board in the atrium was filled with student pledges. This generated much interest in our club and we were able to pass out a variety of  resources throughout the week. Our Active Minds chapter raised approximately $300 which we donated to the Grassroots Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center. 

Our chapter was able to generate positive energy throughout the student population. While we did not expect to change everyone’s opinion, these week long events were useful to shine a light on mental health issues and challenges. Mental health was finally gaining awareness in our school and I felt proud of our Active Minds’ accomplishments. 

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Check out the podcast with Pooja Tailor using one of the links below!

Listen here on Buzzsprout and other streaming services: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1304890/8392662-active-minds-creating-hope-out-of-tragedy-finding-ways-to-make-it-okay-to-talk-about-mental-health-and-suicide

Listen here on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4rjFn275tp69cwQtIWLfW2?si=tzFzXmiwRIWPE8MhoheTTg

Listen here on Pandora: https://pandora.app.link/egSYETtRKfb

Published by Pooja Tailor

Pooja is currently a senior at Reservoir High School and will be attending the University of Maryland in the fall, majoring in economics. She enjoys spending time with friends and traveling the world.