During Spring Break of Alison Malmon’s freshmen year of college at the University of Pennsylvania, she and the rest of her cheerleading team got to go to the NCAA basketball tournament to cheer. Alison called her brother, Brian Malmon, that day.
“Brian was the one who loved sports. So I remember coming home for spring break, which was cut short because I had to go back for tournament, kind of rubbed it in Brian’s face, as you would as a kid sister,” Alison Malmon said.
“He drove me over to the metro station in DC to get to tournament. Penn lost miserably. I bought Brian a t-shirt, called him, told him I got him a t-shirt and rubbed it in his face that I was there,” Alison said.
She then went back to Penn, finished off spring break and got back to classes.
“Then, I got a call from my mom 3 days later that Brian had taken his own life. He was 22 when he died, I was 18. I still have that t-shirt actually sitting in my drawer today,” Malmon said.
Alison Malmon is now the founder of Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students. Alison came to speak on Tuesday night in the Student Center ballroom about the organization and her story.
“Brian was a star high school student. He went through all AP classes by the end of his senior year. He was captain of the debate team, a soloist in the annual rock and roll show. He was the announcer for our school’s football games. He wrote for our local newspaper. As I went off to high school, Brian went off to New York to start at Columbia University. Brian joined an a capella group and he joined the school newspaper. By his senior year, he was president of the a Capella group, he was the Sports Editor of the paper in addition to being a columnist,” Alison said.
In November of his senior year, he went to the schools counseling services. It happened to be a Friday that he visited with the counseling center and when he presented, he was showing signs of anxiety and depression. The therapist he saw recommended he go home for the weekend, so he agreed. He ended up staying home and saw a local mental health clinic four days of the next week and he ended up taking a leave of absence from Columbia.
It was discovered that Brain had been suffering from schizoaffective disorder since his freshmen year of college, when he heard his first voice in his head and ultimately he lost his life to this mental illness.
“I realized that what happened to Brian could have happened to me,” Alison said.
Brian had not shared with his friends or family what was going on, so no one said anything to hime about it. After Brian’s death, Alison started to have fear.
“This fear came from a place of, ‘Why is this happening in silence?’ And if this happened to him, and if this could happen to me, then this could probably happen and probably was happening to any number of people right here on my campus,” Alison said.
Alison soon after launched Active Minds at her school. It started with just three members. After she got the school newspaper to cover an event they had, the reporter had joined. By Alison’s senior year, the club had about 45 members.
Today, the organization has over 500 chapters and national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Two NFL platers have even adopted Active Minds as their cause.
“It wasn’t until Brian died that I realized that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. Why the hell don’t we talk about it?,” Alison said.
“This is much more than my story and Brian’s story, this is happening around campuses around the country and even more so that there was power in the voice of young adults,” Alison said.
You can follow along with Slippery Rock’s Active Minds chapter on Twitter @SRU_ActiveMinds and the national headquarters @Active_Minds.