News from the Field – Active Minds Blog Changing the conversation about mental health Mon, 10 Jul 2017 17:03:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Am I Coming Over with My Camera? Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:02:30 +0000 I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Shaleece Haas, director of the film Real Boy, which will make its television debut on PBS  on June 19th and will remain available on for the remainder of the month. Real Boy follows the transition of a young trans man, Bennett Wallace, as he navigates the intersectionality of gender identity, substance use disorder recovery, and relationships. The transcript below is just a portion of a longer interview that you can hear on the Active Minds SoundCloud page.

Maggie Bertram: How do you go about choosing your projects?

Shaleece Haas: Sometimes I choose my projects and sometimes they choose me. Real Boy didn’t start out as the film you now see. The central protagonist in the film, Bennett Wallace, was 19 when I met him. He had just come out to his family as trans and was having a really hard time at home. Shortly after he met Joe Stevens, a beloved trans musician, at a conference for sober youth, I met him at a house concert where Joe was playing. I was really struck by his music and his lyrics. In some ways the film grew and evolved over time. It wasn’t so much that I set out to make this film as that I found people and moments that I was intrigued by and drawn to. I asked if I could film with them. They said, “yes.” And four years later we had a film.

MB: It sounds like it requires a great deal of vulnerability on your part as well as your subjects’.

SH: I think that’s true. Because it’s certainly not fair to ask people who have said, “Yes, you can film me,” to be open, to be vulnerable, to be accessible, if I’m also not available to do that.

MB: Has that ever bitten back on you a little bit?

SH: [Laughs] It was certainly hard. Making this film wasn’t just about figuring out how to tell the story—what’s the beginning, middle, and end, and raising the funds, and all of that. It was also navigating my personal relationships. I am very close with everyone in the film and I had to figure out when I was wearing my “friend hat” and when I was wearing my “director hat.” And could they be the same thing? And there were a lot of times when I had to really think, “Okay, in this moment am I coming over with my camera? Am I coming over without my camera?” And asking, “Can I come film with you even though this is a really rough moment for you?” But there were other moments where I would put the camera down, and I was just there to be a friend.

MB: So, you’re going to be reaching a much more expansive audience with this version of the film, and I guess I’m wondering what you hope audiences—especially during Pride Month—are going to take away from the film.

SH: That’s a good question and also a difficult one, because I think what someone takes away from the film is so personal and so particular to their own experience. I certainly hope that a lot of people will watch it. And since it will be on PBS and available to anybody who has a television, I hope we reach people who don’t think they need to watch a film about a young trans musician and his relationship with his family. I hope as they’re flipping through channels looking for something to watch, they’ll stumble upon the film and something they see will encourage them to keep watching.

Visibility is not everything. The path to eliminate transphobia from the world and create a safe, inclusive, healthy world for people of all genders requires a lot more than just a bunch of TV shows and documentaries. But I do think that if people see stories that make them really feel something—and then they get up the next morning and have a conversation with their spouse, or their child, or their best friend…or they decide to read the next article that comes out about the topic…and then they think a little more deeply when it comes time to vote at the PTA to create trans inclusive policies at their school—then, we’ve done something.

Hear more of my interview with Shaleece, including a call for you all to be in touch with your reactions to the film, on the Active Minds Sound Cloud page.

You can find out more about Real Boy, watch the trailer, and find out if there are any upcoming screenings in your area by going to

#StatusOfMind: Instagram and Snapchat and their effect on mental health Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:28:35 +0000 Numerous studies have confirmed that social media usage can negatively impact mental health, but a new report called #StatusOfMind, published by Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM), recently reported that Instagram, followed by Snapchat, is the worst social media app for young people’s mental health.

Surveying around 1,500 people between the ages of 14 and 24, RSPH asked participants to score how social media platforms impact health and wellbeing issues based on a number of criteria. Instagram scored the lowest on body image and sleep and the highest on FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. A relatively new concept that has grown with the rise of social media, FOMO is the feeling that you need to stay connected because you’re worried that things could be happening without you. It’s often associated with lower mood and lower life satisfaction as a result of feeling that you’re missing out on life while others are enjoying theirs.

Snapchat also scored low on sleep and high on FOMO, as well as high on bullying. YouTube, followed by Twitter, scored the highest as having the most positive impact on awareness, self-expression, and community building. Twitter also scored high on self-expression and community building, as well as self-identity.

All of the platforms, except for YouTube, scored high on depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

The 14-24 age group coincides with the time period during which most major mental illnesses begin to become apparent. In my experience, as a young person within the age group observed in the recent study, apps like Instagram and Snapchat are extremely image-oriented, providing a distorted reality through image editing. With young people, these edited images can significantly affect their mental wellbeing. Unrealistic beauty standards can have a huge impact on low self image and self esteem with the pressure to obtain those standards, and can also contribute to bullying.

The exact extent to which heavy usage impacts young people’s mental health is still uncertain; however, researchers have studied often demonstrated the perceived addictive nature of social media. It is now a regular part of our daily lives, changing how we socialize and communicate with each other. The way in which a computer or phone screen often separates us from reality can be isolating.

On the other hand, those who use social media report finding more emotional support through their connections, communities, and self-expression. YouTube, for example, is frequently viewed for awareness campaigns, motivational speeches, and inspirational videos by popular youtubers.

The report included a call to action, with a list of ways to address the results of their study. In light of the findings, here are 5 ways you can ensure a healthier social media space for yourself and friends:

  1. Reach out to fellow social media users who indicate through their posts that they may be struggling. Ask them how they’re doing and remind them that help is available at the Crisis Text Line (Text BRAVE to 741741) or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
  2. Let other users know when a photo you’re sharing has been digitally altered or filtered.
  3. Read our tips for healthy social media usage.
  4. Use social media as a tool to connect with others and improve mental health with tools like Koko, which you can access directly through Facebook Messenger to anonymously share stressors and positively reframe problems with the help of other peers.

Healthy usage of social media and taking an active role to ensure positive mental well-being for yourself and your peers through these platforms can make a difference in mental health awareness in young people. It is important to be mindful of the effect and impact of social media platforms. We have the power to shape the future of mental health advocacy on social media.

Which Mental Health Profession is Right for You? Tue, 02 May 2017 14:52:23 +0000 Are you a soon-to-be grad interested in working in the mental health field? Do you know the difference between counseling, therapy, and psychology careers? Check out this infographic from Online Counseling Programs, which compares 10 mental health careers with personality types so you can discover which career path makes the most sense for you.

Life after Active Minds: Pursuing a career as a mental health advocate Mon, 13 Mar 2017 15:46:03 +0000 This post is the second in a two-part series on life after Active Minds.

Have you ever considered Active Minds to be more like a second major or part-time job than an extracurricular activity? Has your time with Active Minds in college made you consider a career in mental health advocacy? Are you seeking any and all career advice you can get?

Look no further! We’ve talked to professional mental health advocates (all of whom are former Active Minds members!) to ask about their transition from student advocate to professional advocate and to solicit advice for post-graduation life.

  1. There is no recommended or preferred degree for those looking to work in mental health advocacy.

Ashli Haggard, a project associate for a sexual assault prevention organization, discussed the versatility of the mental health field and those working in it: “A movement as robust and involved as mental health advocacy movement needs all skill sets. No matter what you’re good at, there’s a way to apply it to make positive changes in the mental health realm.”

However, getting a graduate degree in a specific area could be necessary, depending on where you plan to work. According to Marian Trattner, suicide prevention coordinator at The University of Texas at Austin, “To work at a university [doing mental health advocacy work], you’ll at least need a master’s degree in public health or social work with a focus in community organizing, or a master’s in student affairs or higher education with experience in mental health advocacy work. It all depends on what specific population and setting you want to work with.”

If you are pursuing graduate study, Trattner suggested, “Focus your graduate student thesis topic on something related to mental health; this can make up for lack of experience in certain areas when applying to jobs. I had a suicide prevention assistantship in graduate school that got me in the door for my job at UT Austin, along with coursework that showed I knew how to apply theory to real world practice.”

  1. Pursue experiences that will give you insight into what it’s like to work in the field of mental health advocacy.

While you’re still in college, you can beef up your resume for future advocacy positions by helping out with programs and departments that are related to mental health. Trattner suggested, “If your campus has a peer education program through the counseling center, do that.  If not, get involved with the health center’s peer education program.”

“See if you can get a student assistantship with your campus’s health center or an internship with your local mental health non-profit. Reach out to counseling services and offer to volunteer, join a student advisory board for counseling and wellness services, seek a position in these offices as a graduate student, or volunteer for a crisis hotline.”

If you have an organization in mind that you might want to work with, keep tabs on their job, volunteer, and internship postings. “I found a list of organizations that I supported, believed in and would be happy to work for. I checked their websites regularly for open positions, and that’s how I found my current job.” Hayley Harnicher, Speakers Bureau Coordinator at Active Minds, found her current job by doing just that. “The Active Minds jobs page was on my browser all the time, but it may also have just been really good timing,” she said.

  1. Don’t worry – in 20 years, you’ll still have a job in this field.

Current demand and job security are factors to consider for any potential career path. How can we expect the mental health field to transform over the next few years, and what does that mean for potential advocates?

Haggard said, “The field will change but it’s never going away. The job you might have in 20 years might not be the job you think you’re going to have, but we’ll always need people doing this work because people will always have mental health.”

Maggie Bertram, Associate Director for Training and Education at Active Minds, Inc., shared, “If we advocates are doing the best that we can to change people’s minds, the idea is to work ourselves out of a job. But, the historian piece of my brain knows that social change takes a long time, and we haven’t been working on this issue of mental health advocacy for very long in the course of modern history. [In 20 years,] there will still be a field where we need mental health and suicide prevention advocates.”

  1. You will derive plenty of fulfillment and pride from your work, making the tough days worth it.

When asked about his proudest moment on the job so far, Robyn Suchy, chapter coordinator at Active Minds, Inc., shared, “I spoke at the White House Summit on Millennial Health a couple of months ago, in regards to getting young people to register for the Affordable Care Act and emerging issues for young adults. I served on a panel with Mental Health America and a lot of movers and shakers in the mental health field, so that was really cool.”

Bertram feels proudest when chapter members are recognized for their successes on campus: “I largely see my role [with Active Minds] as a facilitator so that students can do the work that they’re passionate about doing. When we have a chapter member or a chapter who wins a national award or a student organization of the year award on their campus, I’m just really proud of them.”

In regards to what work-related initiative has brought her the most pride so far, Trattner shared, “In 2014-2015, the state of Texas passed a law requiring public universities to provide suicide prevention information to all incoming students on their campuses. I led a team of professionals across the state to create a video that would meet requirements of the law. It’s a free video that any university in Texas can use and it’s so humbling to know that that video is being seen by thousands of students across the state.”

  1. And now, for some career advice…

Trattner recommended making connections with individuals in the field early on, especially with those whose jobs you would like to have. “E-mail people whose jobs you want and ask to do an informational interview. Just ask, ‘Can I take you out for coffee sometime and hear more about what you do?’ The worst they could say is no, but people love talking about themselves! Plus, there may be a position down the road that they consider you for first before others. Job searching is all about relationship building and confidence.”

Suchy emphasized the importance of being flexible with your plans: “[Working at] Active Minds wasn’t my plan [after college], but the background that I had with Active Minds made me equipped to send resumes to mental health nonprofits. It’s okay if plans don’t work out as you expected them to. Bringing the knowledge that you have with you wherever you go is most important.”

Bertram underscored the importance of practicing self-care, especially for aspiring mental health professionals and advocates. “[You] have to have a support network [you] can call on and good coping mechanisms in place before you get into a job in this field. Write down your self-care plan and tape it up on your desk or at home.”

Feeling pressured to find your dream job right away? Don’t! Harnicher advised, “Don’t jump at the first job opportunity thinking it’s THE one. Take your time and stick to whatever timeline makes the most sense to you, not what society tells you.”

Are you wondering how you can remain involved with advocacy efforts post-graduation, even if you don’t plan to pursue a career in the mental health field? Check out the first post in this series titled, “Life after Active Minds: 5 ways to continue your mental health advocacy after graduation.”

Interviewee Profiles

  Maggie Bertram, Associate Director of Training and Education at Active Minds (Boston, MA)

Maggie holds a Bachelor’s degree in history with a focus in secondary education and Asian studies from Illinois Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from the University of Connecticut.  At Active Minds, she currently manages awareness campaigns, runs online courses for Transform You/Transform Your Campus and Our Stories, Our Strengths, and serves as a trainer for and a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau.

Ashli Haggard, Consulting Services Project Associate (Washington, DC) 

Ashli has a B.S. in community health from the University of Maryland at College Park.  She currently works with a national non-profit organization for sexual assault prevention advocacy. 


Hayley Harnicher, Speakers Bureau Coordinator and Internship Manager at Active Minds, Inc. (Washington, DC)

Hayley majored in psychology at the University of Rochester and now manages interns at the Active Minds office and works to bring members of the Speakers Bureau to students all across the country.


Robyn Suchy, Chapter Coordinator at Active Minds, Inc. (Washington, DC)

Robyn double majored in philosophy and English with minors in social justice and women’s studies at Cabrini University.  He now works with Active Minds chapters on grassroots mental health programming and advocacy initiatives.


Marian Trattner, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)

Marian holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work and a Master’s degree in social work with an emphasis in policy planning and administration from The University of Missouri (Go, Tigers!).  She works in the Counseling and Mental Health Center at The University of Texas at Austin doing community-based suicide prevention programming and outreach. 



One Second Every Day Wed, 30 Nov 2016 20:03:51 +0000 I knew from the moment I accepted the position that going on tour with Send Silence Packing was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. Of course the prospect of experiencing something so amazing made me excited but it simultaneously planted a seed of anxiety. How in the world could I capture this time and be able to remember the details?

I’ve always wanted to be a journaler. I admire those who can express their thoughts to themselves on paper and are disciplined enough to do it everyday. I would love to have a record of my thoughts and experiences from any particular time period in my life and be able to reference those notes whenever I’m feeling nostalgic. Alas, every time I’ve attempted a journal it ends up being a notebook full of lists. I list things, it’s what I do. Listing is super helpful to remember tasks I need to do but not great when I want to remember what I actually did that day or how I felt about it. Knowing this about myself and determined to capture the trip in a meaningful way, I knew I was going to have to get creative.

Just before the tour began I remembered a TED Talk I had seen a while back about taking daily videos. After re-watching Cesar Kuriyama’s TED Talk about his 1 second everyday project I thought it would be the perfect way to capture my experience with Send Silence Packing. So I downloaded his app and pressed record! In the beginning, since I’m not a photographer or videographer, it didn’t feel natural to reach for my phone and take a video of random things I did.  But once I got through the first week and had that 7 second video, I was hooked. The tour by nature is a diverse adventure but committing to documenting the trip in this way made me more adventurous! The app was always in the back of my mind and it pushed me to get out of the hotel room more, explore those small towns, and take notice of my surroundings.

Now that the tour is over I have a 78 second video to show for it and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome! It captures what life was really like during the tour. It shows everything from the long hours on the road to mundane hotel lounging to beautiful California beach days.

The most important aspect of this video for me is that it triggers my memory.  After seeing just one second from that day I can remember not only the full event but so many other memories that are attached to it.

Recording one second everyday made me more adventurous, kept me honest, and helps me remember.

“Mad Hatter” Perpetuates Stigma around Mental Illness Wed, 26 Oct 2016 14:36:33 +0000 hand-sign-for-red-carpetThis post speaks candidly about the portrayal of mental illness in popular media and includes stigmatizing language and descriptions to help inform readers about the topic.  

In recent years discussion about mental health and awareness about mental illness has been on the rise. The conversation has even found its way into pop culture with musical artists like Sia. However, mental illness still remains a popular trope in pop music, as seen in Melanie Martinez’s new song “Mad Hatter” off her new album Cry Baby. While the song is meant to be Cry Baby’s acceptance of her madness, it instead perpetuates many stereotypes about mental illness.

It plays on the concept of sanity, with its opening notes conjuring up images of an asylum. At its core, the song creates a distinction between those that are “normal” and those that live with a mental health condition, saying “The normal, they make me afraid. The crazies, they make me feel sane.” This is detrimental to the many advocacy efforts that assert that people who live with mental illness are just like everyone else. Calling those with mental health conditions “crazy” perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Those with mental illness are characterized as “nuts,” “mad,” and “psycho.” Such language harms those that do live with mental illness.

“I’m nuts, baby, I’m mad,

The craziest friend that you’ve ever had

You think I’m psycho, you think I’m gone

Tell the psychiatrist something is wrong.”

It further establishes an othering effect in which people with a mental health concern should be set apart from the “normal” people in society. It perpetuates the idea that mental illness is contagious and that people with such a condition should be quarantined. Such language labels people on the basis that their emotional experiences deviate from what is considered “normal” and creates a sense that they are lesser. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Melanie Martinez, the artist, is a woman and labels like “crazy” are more frequently applied to women due to their perceived emotional nature and desire for more intimate human connection in an effort to invalidate their emotions.

The way in which mental illness is described in the song makes it synonymous with violence. The actions of the “crazy” in the song are depicted as reckless and cruel, with them “popping balloons with guns” and “[painting] white roses red, each shade from a different person’s head.” There already exists such a strong negative view of mentally ill people being violent, due to the way in which the media discusses mental illness, that these images only further perpetuate that stereotype.

Also within the lyrics is a message that encourages people to go off their psychiatric medication. It tells of being better off and more liked by others when off medication despite something being wrong:

“Tell the psychiatrist something is wrong

Over the bend, entirely bonkers

You like me best when I’m off my rocker.”

This is a dangerous message to be hidden within the lyrics of a pop song, for there can be serious consequences for stopping medication without the oversight and approval of a psychiatrist. It again perpetuates negative stereotypes by claiming it is better to be off medication. Those who do take psychiatric medication already face significant stigma, and the message in the song implies that such medication is unnecessary for people will like you more when you are off your medication.

Potentially worst of all is that all of these messages are intended to make this inaccurate depiction of living with mental illness desirable, stating, “So what if I’m crazy? The best people are.” The title of the song itself is an insult to those with a mental health condition, for “mad as a hatter” is a derogatory phrase. The song “Mad Hatter” by Melanie Martinez solidifies the notion that in our society there are people that are normal and abnormal and everyone must be categorized into these divisions. Social acceptance of mental illness is critically important because discrimination follows stigma. “Mad Hatter” elicits negative views about mental illness and perpetuates harmful stereotypes, contributing to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Though intended to be a song of acceptance, “Mad Hatter” does not reflect the fact that one in four people experience a mental health concern in a given year and that they are to be viewed and treated no differently than anyone else.

Megan is a chapter leader at Active Minds at UCLA and a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee.

Send Silence Packing: Becoming My Own Hero Thu, 20 Oct 2016 12:00:09 +0000 collageI’ve never identified as a maker. I don’t bake, I’ve never built a house, and I’m not dedicated to any particular form of art. My professional career has consisted of positions in which I’ve helped, organized, cared for, coordinated, scheduled, planned, listened, attended meetings, and ultimately had no tangible product to show for all my work. And yet I’m drawn to watching countless episodes of Food Network and HGTV shows, where charismatic TV personalities use their hands to create beautiful houses or mouth-watering dishes in the span of 30 minutes.  It’s incredible, and Chip and Jo from Fixer Upper are pretty much #relationshipgoals.

Although I’ve never been a “maker” I deeply admire those who are. My partner, Olivia, is an artist. I marvel at her creativity and her commitment to bringing beauty into this world. She does so in incredibly simple ways but they always leave me awestruck. Oftentimes I would think to myself, “I wish i could do that” as she whipped out a masterful watercolor over an afternoon in the park.

Before leaving for the SSP tour I asked myself “What’s stopping you?” My answers came from a place of fear and self judgement. “That’s her thing” and “You’re not even good at painting.” As the trip’s start date drew closer I continued to dwell on my secret desire to paint. Eventually (with some help) I was able to stifle that little voice telling me I was a fraud and painted my first watercolor.


It’s now day 44 of our 73 day tour and I’ve finished 10 paintings. I was utterly self-conscious at first.  I felt like I was impersonating an artist and trying to be something I’m not. But I enjoyed the mental solitude that painting allows for.  The intense focus I have while painting leads me to a sense of peace. It is that feeling that keeps me painting and quiets my doubts.  Now when I finish a painting I can’t wait to show it off! I’m so proud of myself! I feel like a little kid whose drawing just make it onto the coveted refrigerator gallery space. With each painting I understand the medium better and feel my confidence grow.


It’s exhilarating to realize that I can attempt any small thing I admire in other people.  That goes for you too! If you think it’s cool that someone journals daily, wears fedoras, or carries a travel watercolor set, then what’s stopping you from trying it out yourself? It was only my own insecurities and ideas of ownership that held me back from trying something new.  In reality, there’s nothing stopping me from taking up a new hobby, experimenting with my style, or changing my ways.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we all start impersonating our favorite celebrities and take on a Mr. Ripley brand of lifestyle. But if you’ve ever wanted to take a yoga class and didn’t because you thought you wouldn’t fit in with the bendy, zen goddesses who have been going for years, I implore you to reconsider.  We are not old dogs, we can learn new tricks. We can continue to explore new skills and remain true to ourselves at the same time.  Olivia does not own water-coloring on a park bench and neither do I.  It all starts with being kind to ourselves, which I know is by no means easy. But over the past few weeks, by letting myself emulate someone I admire I ended up becoming my own hero.



#ReasonsISpeak: Your voice is your power Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:58:18 +0000 organic

Every September we honor Suicide Prevention Month with the #ReasonsISpeak campaign on social media.

Thank you for another successful campaign, and for helping us share with the world the reasons we speak about mental health and suicide. Your voice is your power, and every story shared helps reduce the stigma around mental health issues.

Below are some of our favorite #ReasonsISpeak posts. We were so moved by all of your responses. <3

Active Minds at Catholic University of America share the reasons they speak in this video!


Because I would’ve missed all of this… #reasonsispeak #stopthestigma #nationalsuicidepreventionmonth #itsokaynottobeokay #activeminds


1 capturecapture




"Why do you speak about suicide?" I look back at that period of my life with regret, knowing that I wasted more than 1 year of my life giving up on myself. But I also look back at that time with gratitude and pride-- Because I survived. Because I'm still here. Alive. Today I speak about suicide to help end the shame and the silent. To give a voice to those who are struggling too much to ask for help. To let them know that it's okay to make mistakes and not be perfect. To tell all those who are struggling that: You are not alone.
“Why do you speak about suicide?” I look back at that period of my life with regret, knowing that I wasted more than 1 year of my life giving up on myself. But I also look back at that time with gratitude and pride–
Because I survived.
Because I’m still here. Alive.
Today I speak about suicide to help end the shame and the silent.
To give a voice to those who are struggling too much to ask for help.
To let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect.
To tell all those who are struggling that:
You are not alone.

12 15






AUCCCD Infographic: A Closer Look at College Counseling Centers Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:00:50 +0000 The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) recently released their annual report on college counseling center trends, so we put together an infographic to highlight a few of the key takeaways. You can read the full report here.


Why Active Minds Honors the Healthiest Campuses in America Tue, 23 Aug 2016 19:37:43 +0000 HCA_mainbanner_post-withlogosThis is a big day at Active Minds: We just named the winners of the 2016 Healthy Campus Award. Congratulations to each of the winning institutions (You can learn all about why they won here):

  • California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach, CA)
  • Jefferson College (Hillsboro, MO)
  • Lawrence University (Appleton, WI)
  • Sacramento State (Sacramento, CA)
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)

Instead of just re-capping why each school won, I wanted to share why Active Minds gives out this award in the first place. As a national non-profit with a small staff, our time and resources are limited. There are only so many projects and initiatives we can take on. So why is the Healthy Campus Award one of them? Let me explain.

The Active Minds Healthy Campus Award recognizes and celebrates U.S. colleges and universities that are prioritizing health and making great progress towards creating a campus that promotes the health and well-being of its students. It champions schools giving equal priority, attention, and investment to mental health alongside physical health.

Under the direction of Sara Abelson, Active Minds’ Vice President for Student Health and Wellness, the Award gives Active Minds the chance to recognize what’s going right. Sara and I have been having conversations for years about how student health only becomes a topic of public conversation when there’s a tragedy, like a student suicide or school shooting. The media headlines only focus on what schools are doing wrong and where they are falling short. And when success in campus health is discussed, mental health is often ignored.

We were tired of this trend. We wanted to change the conversation (that’s kind of our thing).

So we developed the Active Minds Healthy Campus Award to draw attention to the schools that are getting it right — defining health broadly; prioritizing long-term, strategic approaches; and championing student voices. It’s our hope that this award will inspire and encourage other universities and colleges to view student health holistically — because as we often say at Active Minds, there’s no such thing as health without both physical and mental health.

And we’re not just talking about big schools with big budgets. Yes, some of our winning institutions are large, public universities with impressive resources. But some are small community colleges in rural communities. Some are arts colleges in urban settings. Some are private institutions. The diversity of our winners shows that it’s possible for every campus to build a healthy community.

True to the Active Minds mission, the award is unique in valuing student input and leadership. The application requires endorsement by the student body, in addition to that from the school’s president. Each winning school provided evidence that campus efforts are positively impacting student’s actual experiences on campus. Student leaders were part of the panel of judges and played a key part in assessing applicants, judging, and ultimately selecting the winners.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating the winners of the 2016 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award. Not only are they creating campuses where every student has the opportunity to thrive, they are broadening the way we all think about, care for, and value health and wellness in all of its dimensions.