Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon when she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, following the suicide of her older brother, Brian. Brian, also a college student, had been experiencing depression and psychosis for three years but had concealed his symptoms from everyone around him. In the middle of his senior year, he returned to the family’s Potomac, Maryland home and began receiving treatment for what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder. A year and a half later on March 24, 2000, as Alison was wrapping up her freshman year at Penn, Brian ended his life.
Recognizing that few Penn students were talking about mental health issues though many were affected, Alison was motivated to change that culture on her campus. She wanted to combat the stigma of mental illness, encourage students who needed help to seek it early, and prevent future tragedies like the one that took her brother’s life. After searching unsuccessfully for existing groups that she could simply bring to her campus, Alison created her own model and formed what was then known as Open Minds.
After a great first year, Open Minds at Penn gained enough support that it expanded onto other campuses. Kate Hard dedicated her first year as a Georgetown University transfer student to bringing the Penn program, and mental health awareness, to her new campus. At that time she founded the second chapter of Active Minds at Georgetown, which gained the same momentum and support as had the Penn chapter.
The constant growth continued, and the National headquarters was established in Washington, DC during the summer of 2003. The new non-profit organization, and all of the affiliated campus chapters, was then renamed Active Minds, Inc., to reflect the progressive nature of this form of student advocacy in the mental health movement.
Active Minds was Incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in late 2003. In ten years, the non-profit organization has grown into a well recognized entity in the field, led by a committed team of full time staff members under Alison's direction, as well as a Board of Directors, National Advisory Committee and Student Advisory Committee. Featured on CNN, in The New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and much more, Active Minds has become the voice of young adult mental health advocacy nationwide. With more than 400 campus chapters, hundreds of thousands of young adults all across the country are benefiting from the Active Minds model.