A Year of Growth, Impact, and Changing the Culture Around Mental Health

Alison Malmon
Alison Malmon

It’s been a year. An absolutely extraordinary year to be a part of Active Minds.

For most of our history, Active Minds has been an organization that impacted so many but was held and managed by so few. As the founder and executive director, I’ve typically worked with a small (but mighty!) team to help shape policy, work with young adults and partners, and use an innovative approach to help move the needle on how our country views and treats mental health. It has been an immense privilege to see how far we have come over the last nearly 20 years. 

That all shifted this year, when the world started prioritizing mental health in the way I could have once only dreamed of. We have almost doubled our staff members to a headcount of 50 and built depth in all areas of our work. Our team is able to work concurrently on bold new programming, reimagining our chapter model, spearheading national policy changes, and making needed improvements internally and externally to make Active Minds a more inclusive, impactful, and anti-racist organization. 

One area that I’m particularly excited about is our continued growth into the K-12 space through our 1K in 1K initiative – our ambitious programming goal to bring our proven peer-to-peer mental health model to 1,000 K-12 schools in 1,000 days.  

We know that half of all mental illnesses start before the age of 14. Our increased focus on mental health in K-12 schools will help ensure that students, parents, caregivers, educators, and staff alike will have the resources they need to talk about mental health in a way that is safe, accessible, and inclusive – before a mental health crisis happens. Peer-to-peer efforts, like those modeled by student-led Active Minds chapters around the country, bolstered by toolkits, trainings, and partnerships with trusted adults, can serve as an antidote to the unparalleled mental health crisis facing our nation’s youth, especially BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other marginalized youth, and help students talk about their needs, normalize the topic of mental health, and provide personal contact and support when a mental health crisis occurs. 

I’ve seen first-hand the unique power that young adults have in improving mental health when they are given the tools and words needed to express themselves and help others. By expanding our proven peer-to-peer model to 1,000 K-12 schools, we’re going to give even more youth and young adults the resources to help change the culture around mental health among their peers, schools, and communities to ultimately save lives.  

I’m excited to see what new accomplishments and challenges 2023 will bring. As always, I’m grateful for the broader Active Minds community – our chapter members, speakers, supporters, partners, and staff – who help to bring our programming to life. I hope you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy holiday season. Stay tuned for more updates from our community in the new year!