Celebrating the Past, Mobilizing the Future: 20 Years of Active Minds

Alison Malmon
Alison Malmon

It’s December. As we spend the holiday season gathered together with family and friends, this time of year is often marked by connection and reflection. For me, this rings especially true on the anniversary of our founding month as I think about the work and powerful impact that the Active Minds community has accomplished over the past 20 years. 

I founded Active Minds in 2003, following the loss of my brother Brian to suicide. I was a college student, overwhelmed by both the stress of school and young adulthood and grieving the loss of my best friend. I knew two things at that point: that I never wanted another student to suffer in silence the way Brian had, and that my peers, fellow youth and young adults, could be the ones to change this narrative. Active Minds was born as an organization of young people mobilizing in mental health, and throughout the countless changes these past two decades have brought, everything from the first iPhone to COVID-19, we have remained committed to supporting and uplifting the next generation in becoming the mental health change so desperately needed in schools, on campuses, and in communities. 

We have adapted and shifted to accommodate ever-changing needs across the years. We inherited the Active Minds Speakers Bureau in 2010 from the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign and have proudly brought speakers to more than 1,000,000 youth and adult audiences in the years since. In 2020, we launched our K-12 program and have been expanding ever since to reach middle and high schools nationwide. Throughout the past year, we revamped our long-standing Send Silence Packing® exhibit after its original debut in 2008 to better meet the wraparound mental health needs of the communities we visit. We also partnered this year with MTV to update our peer-to-peer mental health tool V-A-R® to A.S.K., introducing the new tool at the VMAs and on a nationwide tour with the U.S. Surgeon General this fall. We have always welcomed change because that’s what youth and young adults have needed.

Looking to the future, I know the most critical factor in combating the current youth mental health crisis is the inclusion and amplification of youth and young adult perspectives. They are living through and within so much, from gun violence to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, climate change and systemic and interpersonal racism, the lingering effects of COVID-19, and so much more. These youth and young adults know what they need, and they know how to achieve it — we just need to listen. 

To the youth and young adults advocating day in and day out for change, Active Minds is here with and for you. We are proud to be your resource for mental health programming, research, connections, and evidence-backed tools. Active Minds is a partner for your advocacy and change-making efforts — and we are thrilled to be so.

As I continue to reflect with the Active Minds team, partners, and the broader Active Minds community about what the past 20 years have meant and what we hope to accomplish in the future, I know that we wouldn’t be where we are or where we’re going without each of you. Whether you’ve hosted an Active Minds program, donated or held a fundraiser, or followed our work online, we thank you for your commitment. Active Minds and the broader culture around mental health have come so far over the past 20 years, and there is still so much more to do. 

We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us until we all live in a world where mental health is normalized, care is accessible and equitable, and no one feels alone in their struggles.