Active Minds Blog » Lee Ann Gardner Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 9 Tips for Bringing an Active Minds Speaker to Your Campus Mon, 22 Feb 2016 14:16:37 +0000 bureau collage image 5.2014 Final3

Thinking about hosting a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau to help educate your campus about mental health? Whether you’ve never hosted an event before or you’re a seasoned planner, here are some tips to help you create a successful, stress-free program that will have deep and long-lasting impact on your community.

1. Secure funding. Know in advance how much money you have to spend, and where it’s coming from. Check with the student activities office, Student Government and the counseling center. They often have grants available to support student-led programs.

You can co-sponsor the event with other organizations–contact Greek Life, Res Life, SGA, the Athletic Department and others to see if they are interested.

2. Decide who you want your audience to be. Is this event for the whole school, or a specific demographic? Who are you trying to reach and what is the message you want to communicate? This will help you decide on which speaker is best for your event.

3. Reserve space in advance. Choose a space that’s the right size for the expected audience (not too big or too small). Make sure the room can accommodate your speaker’s audio/visual requirements. And don’t forget to put your program on the school’s event calendar so everyone can find the information and show up at your speaker’s presentation.

4. Call the Active Minds Speakers Bureau and book your speaker. Consult with the AMSB staff to determine which speaker fits your event profile. Contact AMSB at least 6 weeks in advance of your ideal date. If you already know who you’d like to invite, find out if s/he is available on your event date. Ask about logistical needs, including travel, hotel accommodations, and the kinds of A/V technology required.

5. Fill out your invitation form as completely as possible! The more information you provide in advance, the better prepared your speaker will be to deliver the message you want.

6. Review your contract and invoice right away. Once your speaker is confirmed, you’ll receive your contract documents; make sure the information is accurate, and have the contract signed by your advisor. Send it back to AMSB by the due date.

7. Create a marketing plan based on your target audience. Make flyers, posters, and other promotional materials to advertise your speaker’s appearance. Place them everywhere you can: campus bulletin boards, classrooms, meeting rooms, student housing, the Student Union, local coffee shops, public transportation.

8. Design a Facebook event and invite your contacts and networks. Use social media like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr to share news about your event. E-mail your group’s listserv and listservs for similar organizations that may be interested and willing to collaborate.

9. Enlist others to help. Ask professors to offer extra credit for students’ attendance at your event. Ask Greek Life, athletic departments and other organizations to mandate their members’ attendance, or to offer incentives (e.g. Greek Week Points). Ask your school newspaper or communications office to cover the event and take pictures.

Don’t forget: When you book a speaker, your chapter also receives a credit toward your fundraising goal. Contact the bureau today at or 202-332-9595 ext. 102 to start planning your event.

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An Active Minds Speaker for Every Mental Health Day, Week and Month Fri, 19 Feb 2016 14:21:29 +0000 Speakers_Bureau_Logo_Website

Now is a great time to look ahead and plan your programs through the end of semester and beyond; if you’re looking for a way to promote your Active Minds chapter on your campus, and raise awareness about mental health and suicide, consider hosting an event around one of the mental health awareness campaigns coming up!

Let Active Minds Speakers Bureau provide a presenter on one of the topics being highlighted, and remember– when you book an AMSB speaker, your chapter will receive programming credits toward your annual fundraising goal!

If your Spring semester calendar is already full, get a head start on the Fall!

Whatever your focus is, and whenever your event will take place, let us help YOU educate your campus, promote mental wellness and earn program credits! Contact the Active Minds Speakers Bureau at or at 202-332-9595 x102 TODAY!

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10 Holiday Survival Tips from the Active Minds Speakers Bureau Wed, 09 Dec 2015 14:23:59 +0000 giphy

What is it about the holiday season that stresses us out? The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can seem like the longest, most angst-filled time of the whole year, even though the days are short!

Even if you don’t ordinarily experience anxiety, depression, mood swings or other mental health issues, itmay not be uncommon for you to feel a little less grounded at the end of the year. And if you are dealing with a disorder, the symptoms may be magnified right about now. If so, read on.

You may already have some coping mechanisms in place for when you feel anxious; however, as a small holiday gift, the Active Minds speakers would like to offer you some of their own tips for surviving the holidays with good mental (and physical) health intact.

Frank Warren: “My one tip for stress reduction is exercise. I feel like I get similar benefits of relaxation and focus from endurance exercise as others might get from meditation or yoga. My favorite workouts are spinning, pool laps and kicking. Don’t forget to hydrate—coconut water, protein drinks and even plain tap water are my go-tos.”

Meg Hutchinson: “Remembering to spend at least an hour every day totally gadget-free out in the woods – I call it ‘sky time;’ I also like to remind myself of Viktor Frankl’s quote ” Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Stacy Pershall: “Hot yoga every day! Seriously, that’s my primary coping strategy right now. I’ve become a little obsessed.”

Kevin Briggs: “Put some time aside to have coffee/tea with friends/family and let them know how important they are in your life. For me, December is also a time of reflection. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished the past year, and set goals for next year. Be thankful for what you have and give something to those not as fortunate as you.”

Kai Roberts: “The holiday season can become pretty hectic. During this time of celebration, be sure to make time for yourself. This reflection time will keep you calm and grounded.”

Pablo Campos: “Sing or hum along with your favorite holiday song or even some of the annoying ones. That form of expression is a favorite one of mine that helps me think solely about the pitch of my voice and the song and not about everything else going on around me.”

Colleen Coffey: “Be right here, right now. Every single moment is a gift. We get just one life here on earth. When I am overwhelmed I breathe in and out and remind myself what I am grateful for. I breathe in what is good and true and breathe out the anxiousness and darkness and remind myself that I am grateful to be right here -right now.”

Juliana Kerrest: “Curl up with my warmest blanket, whichever pet is in the mood to snuggle, and a good book that is for pure-enjoyment’s sake.”

Janelle Montaño: “As days grow shorter, temperatures drop, and holiday celebrations begin, I remind myself the importance of fresh air!  Getting bundled up and taking a walk to the local coffee shop, library, or even through the neighborhood is food for my body, mind, and soul.”

Maggie Bertram: “Designate an ally who will save you from all those “what’re you going to do with your future” questions.”

So, no matter what else is going on this holiday season, remember to take some time to reward yourself for being an awesome person, and give yourself a gift–the gift of being good to yourself!

Happy Holidays!

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Look Who’s Talkin’ Mental Health at #MHCC15 Thu, 05 Nov 2015 08:19:08 +0000 slide for conference

The excitement is building here at Active Minds National Office — we’re only a week away from Active Minds’ 12th National Mental Health on Campus Conference (also known as #MHCC15 on social media). And do we have a great weekend planned for you!

In addition to must-attend Pre-Conference Leadership Institute sessions, Send Silence Packing display, Welcome Networking Hour socials and the super-popular SAC-led Breakout Sessions, we’re featuring some awesome keynote speakers: Melissa Rivers, Sam Dylan Finch and Active Minds Speakers Bureau’s own Pablo Campos.

And that’s not all! This year, almost all of AMSB’s members are joining us to share their stories and talents in lots of ways. Don’t miss the Creative Programming Expo — an annual conference favorite — where you can meet your favorite AM speakers in person in a relaxed and casual setting. Visit the AMSB table at the Expo on Saturday between 12:45pm and 2:15pm.

Throughout the weekend, you can hear presentations by your favorite Active Minds speakers Jordan Burnham, Stacy Pershall, J. Danée Sergeant, Juliana Kerrest, David Romano, Maggie Bertram. Hear their stories firsthand, told in intimate group settings,and participate in question and answer sessions afterward. 
Interested in hearing what men think about mental health? NEW this year is the Men and Mental Health Panel, moderated by Kevin Briggs and featuring Jordan Burnham, Pablo Campos and David Romano, discussing mental health issues from the male perspective. Seating is limited so don’t be late—Saturday afternoon 2:30pm-3:45pm.

Are you a book lover? Come to the Mental Health Author Meet-and-Great on Saturday from 5:30pm-7:00pm! Have your books signed by Frank Warren, Kevin Briggs and Stacy Pershall (books available for advance purchase at the Active Minds book store, located near the registration table). What a cool way to end Day 2!

Still haven’t heard enough? No worries—we have Sunday morning workshops (9:30am-10:50am)! De-stress with Juliana Kerrest (and Emily Armstrong, AM’s Speakers Bureau Administrative Assistant) for a calming Yoga/meditation Session, “Movement and Stillness for the Mind” or unleash your inner rap artist with Kai Roberts at his “Rapping the Movement” workshop.

Feeling more like expressing yourself in word? Danée Sergeant offers her new spoken word workshop, “Accept Da’ Flow, Not Defeat” using rhythmic meter. For a more cosmic approach, join Stacy Pershall for her creative writing workshop, “The Most Astounding Fact: Writing for Recovery.” No matter which you choose, you’ll have a great experience and even greater memories of interacting with these incredible presenters.

Whether this is your first time at the Active Minds Mental Health on Campus Conference or you’re a seasoned pro, you’ll find something new and exciting to do at Conference, and a wide variety of speakers to hear. And don’t forget that they’re all available to come to your campus to speak at your events!

For more info check out the Active Minds Speakers Bureau or contact

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Hot Summer, Cool New Speakers Wed, 08 Jul 2015 08:43:24 +0000 Speakers_Bureau_Logo_Website

I don’t know about you, but I usually think of July as a pretty sleepy, quiet month (except for July 4, of course, which is pretty loud and sparkly). This July is different, though, because I have the pleasure of announcing two new speakers to the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, and that is BIG, EXCITING and NOISY news!

Kai Roberts and Pablo Campos come to us from two very different backgrounds but with a common thread that runs deeply through all the Active Minds speakers—a personal story
of mental health struggle, diagnosis and journey to wellness. These two young guys bring their unique chronicles of mental health disorder and the roads they traveled along the way to realization, activism and recovery.

Pablo copyPablo, a first generation American of Guatemalan parents, recalls a lonely childhood punctuated by frustration and acting out. As he grew up, his anger rose to the surface, and he turned to negative behaviors to cope—physical violence and bullying, petty crime and drug use, which fueled his impulsiveness. As he entered high school, he learned ways to disguise his inner turmoil; he was popular, sang in a band and played team soccer. But as his depression grew, he spiraled out of control, attempting suicide and landing in a series of treatment facilities.

Finally diagnosed with ADHD and depression, Pablo had a clear adversary to fight, and engaged in a committed effort to find the proper treatment and support network he needed to fill his life with positives and lift himself out of the darkness he had lived in for so long. Today, he is a successful college student, new husband and determined advocate.  He’s working toward a degree in social work so he can pay forward some of what he feels he owes to those who have helped him get to where he is today. I am deeply honored to count him among the group of young adult speakers I work with on the bureau.

Kai copyKai is undoubtedly the first hip-hop artist I’ve ever met, and he brings a whole new meaning to “singing the blues” with his story of finding himself facing anxiety and panic disorder while attending Carnegie Mellon University. Most compelling is the way he translated his original idea of open dialogue, Carnegie Conversations, into an album of hip-hop lyrics that addressed his symptoms, his emotions and his use of poetry as a coping and healing force. Carnegie Cafe became a resource for Kai’s fellow students to relate their own struggles with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders to, in a familiar medium, and he blends his music with his narrative in a way that invites listeners to join in.

Kai feels a responsibility, like Pablo, to share his experience with others to remind them that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are sources of support and treatment available, and that they can also tap into their inner selves to shine a light on their feelings, making them seem a little less scary. He amazes me.

I hope you will all join me in welcoming Kai and Pablo to the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, and that you have the opportunity to hear each of them speak someday soon, whether at your own campus, or at Conference. We feel especially privileged to introduce them during Minority Mental Health Month #MMHM when we turn our focus on creating awareness and discussion about mental wellness in minority communities.

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Active Minds Speakers Bureau Welcomes Frank Warren, Kevin Briggs Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:26:54 +0000 unnamedWhat do Frank Warren, author and creator of the PostSecret Project and Kevin Briggs, “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge” have in common?  They’ve both joined Active Minds Speakers Bureau as Affinity Speakers!

Along with our 12 Exclusive Speakers, these two new stars bring their distinct experiences and perspectives to an already dazzling constellation of highly-trained professional mental health presenters.

About Kevin Briggs:

A former California Highway Patrol officer, Kevin Briggs helped prevent more than 200 suicides during his career, becoming known as “the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge.” Today, he promotes mental health awareness through his crisis intervention and leadership organization, Pivotal Points, and speaks worldwide about suicide prevention. His story has been featured in The New YorkerPeople Magazine and Men’s Health Magazine, and his own TED talk.

About Frank Warren:

Frank Warren created the community art project and worldwide phenomenon PostSecret, which allows people to mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Selected secrets are then published on Since PostSecret’s inception, Warren has received over one million postcards. They have been curated for six New York Times bestselling books and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. He travels the world discussing how the project has changed lives and why suicide awareness is a part of his life’s work.

You may have heard Kevin and Frank speak at Active Minds’ 11th Annual National Mental Health on Campus Conference in November 2014. Frank’s presentation was the place to be on Friday night, when he spoke to a standing room-only crowd of conference attendees, highlighting secrets received from his PostSecret contributors,and encouraging those in the audience to share their own secrets in a safe and supportive environment. Framed by slides of actual postcards he has received over the course of the project, Frank gently reminded us that we all have secrets — even some we keep from ourselves.

Kevin Briggs closed the conference on Sunday morning, delivering his powerful program to a packed ballroom of listeners who heard his message of survival, courage and hope. Illustrated with images gathered over a 23-year law enforcement career, Kevin’s presentation was inspiring and touching, and punctuated with stories told with candor and humility.

Active Minds Speakers enjoy a solid reputation for providing honest, reflective and genuine stories of personal adversity and triumph, hardship and healing.  Kevin Briggs and Frank Warren, as seasoned advocates of mental health awareness and real-life stigma-fighters, are ready to come to your chapter, your campus, your community, and share their energy and enthusiasm with your group, while offering real insight into why we need organizations like Active Minds and people like you to become mental health warriors.

Contact the Active Minds Speakers Bureau to find out how to bring Frank Warren or Kevin Briggs to speak at your next event.

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Thoughts from the Active Minds Speakers Bureau: Why I’m Thankful This Year Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:00:28 +0000 From left to right: Jordan Burnham, Stacy Pershall, Alison Malmon, Meg Hutchinson, Maggie Bertram, Daneé Sergeant and Dave Romano at the 2014 National Mental Health on Campus Conference.

From left to right: Jordan Burnham, Stacy Pershall, Alison Malmon, Meg Hutchinson, Maggie Bertram, Daneé Sergeant and Dave Romano at the 2014 National Mental Health on Campus Conference.

As we approach Thanksgiving, one of my favorite times of the holiday season (and the whole year!), many people reflect on what they’re most grateful for in their lives: family, friends, good health (physical and mental), school, job, the well-timed release of Mockingjay or their football team’s record.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I’m acutely aware of how richly I’ve been blessed.  I have a family that loves me, friends who have my back, and a new job that is challenging and fun and deeply rewarding.

As the Director of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, I have discovered that I have a whole new dimension to my circle, and it’s made up of 12 of the most remarkable people I’ve met in my life.  They are the speakers who comprise the bureau, and I could not have asked for a more dedicated, mindful or passionate group of people to represent Active Minds and take its mission out to the world.

Bryan Adams, our sole military veteran, uses his talents to advocate for student vets at Rutgers, and shares his own story of PTSD and struggle with other mental health issues upon his return from Iraq. Although he probably wouldn’t call himself a hero, hundreds of people who have heard him speak believe he is.  Thank you for your service, Bryan.

Although she’s also an Active Minds staff member, Maggie Bertram is a vital part of the speaker team.  In addition to training new members of the speakers bureau, she coaches and encourages her colleagues, as well as travels the country sharing her own narrative of disorder survival, empowering those who hear her message to advocate for their own treatment and recovery.

Jordan Burnham is a one-man crash course in survival.  His good-natured way of telling his story underscores his deep understanding that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a way of standing up for personal mental healthcare.  He relates to everyone across age, economic, class, gender and racial lines, easily connecting with each person he meets.

Colleen Coffey is a fiery Southern lady who has turned her own history of mental health concerns into a career focused on helping college students, especially those involved in Greek Life, to grow and succeed while on campus and beyond.  She shares her talents at Active Minds speaking events, offering her own story of recovery and strength to audiences across the nation.

Soft-spoken and spiritual, Meg Hutchinson is a powerful advocate for mental health awareness and healing.  She illuminates her own story of illness, treatment and recovery with music, singing lyrics drawn from her own life experiences and those of people she’s known.  Meg touches audiences in a profound and meaningful way.

Juliana Kerrest is bright and bold; she focuses her talks on advocacy, encouraging those in her audiences to speak up for themselves and pro-actively seek out and take advantage of the many avenues of treatment available.  She believes that everyone has a voice, and she uses hers to exhort others to do the same for themselves.

Cameron Mack is devoted to helping others overcome the obstacles to finding help for their own mental health disorders.  Using a multi-faceted treatment protocol, he has found a pathway to recovery, and uses his role as an Active Minds speaker to spread the message of hope and empowerment.  He also teaches that by creating supportive communities, we can all find healing.

Vivacious and out-going, Janelle Montano is a fierce believer in participating actively in one’s mental health wellness plan, and of creating an atmosphere of safety and acceptance where everyone can feel like a part of their own treatment.  She delivers her message of life balance and mind-body connection to students as well as adult audiences.

Stacy Pershall‘s unique and engaging manner draws her audiences in and keeps them connected as she shares the story of her personal mental health journey and the many crossroads she’s encountered along the way.  Unafraid to reveal the intimate details of her inner life, she offers hope that there is healing available with the right diagnosis and treatment.

David Romano may be the youngest member of the bureau, but he’s not a typical Gen Y guy.  Because of his own mental health issues, Dave is passionate about giving of himself, both as a speaker and as a champion of those confronting their own mental health issues. He especially wants men to know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Resilient, artistic, funny and complex, Daneé Sergeant always has a ready smile and a kind word, despite a life-story filled with trauma, homelessness and mental illness.  Determined to help others who suffer the same issues, she’s fulfilling her dream to attend Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service so she can reach out and empower others through official channels.

So, on Thursday, as I gather with the rest of the folks around my dinner table, I will be grateful for these twelve people who are courageous, kind, caring and smart. I know they’re grateful for each other and for those who have supported them along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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