8 Things I Learned From The Active Minds National Conference

Last weekend, I had the great opportunity to attend the Active Minds National Conference at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. I first heard about Active Minds a year ago, and quickly grew interested in its mission. Last month, I spoke at the Active Minds chapter at Long Beach State University, providing mental health awareness and hope from my personal story to those in attendance. The more I have become invested in what the organization has been doing, the more I felt intrigued to get connected, and to attend the conference. So I did! And it was a 10/10 experience.


Active Minds is the nation’s premier organization for supporting mental health awareness on college and high school campuses. Their presence is on 600 campuses nationwide and expects continued growth moving forward. Thousands of events are held each year, and millions of students have been positively impacted by Active Minds since its launch 15 years ago. Innovative strategies to help students and their mental health are prevalent for Active Minds. Whether it’s the Send Silence Packing college tour, outreach from the speakers bureau, or the localized leadership from students on campus, Active Minds is continuing to break the stigma and help students with mental wellness.


My experience at the national conference was gratifying and revealing. I learned a great deal about the mental health space, the problems we face, and the vast opportunities that lie ahead. I want to share what I learned from the conference, as I hope you begin to understand the value that this organization has in the mental health of students across the country!


Here are 8 Things I Learned from the Active Minds National Conference:


1.One person dies from suicide every 15 minutes.


I knew suicide was an epidemic. I knew it is one of the leading causes of death. I knew we’re struggling to find solutions. And I know how painful it is, speaking from past experience. But I didn’t know that one person takes their life every 15 minutes. I was baffled with sadness when I heard this. Suicide is an extremely prevalent issue, whether we want to admit it or not. We have to be honest with one another, and be there to listen when someone is struggling. We have to do whatever it takes to stop this trend.


2. Sometimes, the best thing we can say is, “I’m here for you.”


In any stressful situation in life, I think it is natural for people to try to be the hero. But what I learned is that sometimes the best hero we can be is just by being there for someone, actively listening to understand, and making sure they know that we are here for them. Sometimes that is the spot where change really happens. Whether a quick text, thoughtful phone call, or deep conversation…let’s work on letting others know we’re here for them.


3. Storytelling is an avenue to break barriers and stigma.


I have been passionate about storytelling ever since I got the drive to tell my own. I know it can be scary for some of us, but storytelling is vital. It’s impactful because it’s true. No story is fake or not real. Stories that happened are true, and the truth is what we need. Stories also make us feel included, and not so alone. We are not the only one struggling. Stories allow for vulnerability which leads to change. Stories offer new perspectives and hope from someone who has overcome a struggle. Stories need to be shared- yours, mine, and everyone we know…because telling stories help other people to tell their stories. The bottom line is that someone needs your story.


4. Postvention is important, as is prevention.


Preparing and preventing for suicide is critical. We must continue the research, help, and guidance to lure people away from taking their life. But when the tragedy of a suicide does strike our community, we must know how to effectively navigate it. What can often be an unbearable sadness and grief, having a postvention strategy in place is important for healing.


5. The opportunities are endless- Athletics, Greek Life, First Generation, Corporate


As the stigma begins to be broken and mental health continues to develop in being a focus in society, the opportunities are endless. The growth potential to help people will forever be rising, because people will always have struggles, especially with new discoveries like social media. Talking about mental health is no longer limited to mental health organizations, counselors, and therapists. Other niches that can be capitalized upon moving forward include include Greek Life, athletic programs, first generation college students, and corporations, to name a few.


6. Having a conversation is the first step to change.


What can be accomplished without a conversation? Nothing. We must be willing to talk about our struggles and what we need help with. And we must be willing to talk about mental health for the stigma to continue to reduce. Change will happen when conversations do.


7. We’re heading in the right direction.


Sometimes, it is difficult to comprehend progression when we hear constant negativity on the news and immediate distractions on social media. This weekend was affirming for me because I grew a new level of confidence that mental health in America is heading in the right direction. From peer to peer conversations, school resources, national recognition, new research, innovative discoveries, and organizations like Active Minds taking initiative, I am confident that our society will progress as a whole for years to come.


8. 76% of people regret not being their full self.


One of the keynote speakers said that, “76% of people on their deathbed have the single regret of not being themselves during their life.” It wasn’t things that they never accomplished or places they never traveled to. It wasn’t not having enough money. It wasn’t not being good enough. The truth is that they felt they weren’t their full self as they lived. How tragic is that? I think that is a scary thought and one to ponder about. Let’s make sure we don’t fall into this behavior. Let’s continue being real with ourselves and honest with others, let’s converse about our mental health, and let’s make sure we live as who we actually are at the core, not someone who we want to be or who society tells us to be.