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Youth Summit: 'Suicide is the Most Horrific Loss'

Churchill graduate begins nation-wide movement on college campuses to address stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

<ro>"Being a suicide survivor is a cult that no one wants to be a part of."

Alison Malmon's older brother, Brian Malmon, had been the announcer at Churchill High School football games. He covered Churchill sports for a community newspaper, he performed in Blast from the Past.

As a student at Columbia University, Brian was the president of his a cappella singing group, he was the sports editor of his university newspaper, he starred in a theatrical production at Columbia and he was on the dean's list most semesters.

Brian Malmon had also experienced symptoms of a serious mental illness since his freshman year of college, which was not diagnosed until he was a senior.

"He hadn't told anybody about it, he was scared," said his sister Alison Malmon, founder of Active Minds, Inc. "He had no idea what was going on, the last thing he wanted to say was, 'Look at me, I was perfect in high school, it looks like I am perfect in college, there's something going wrong with my mind and I'm not perfect.'"

Alison Malmon's brother died of suicide in March of 2000.

"SUICIDE IS THE MOST horrific loss you could ever ever imagine," Malmon told two classes of Whitman students at the Youth Summit last Wednesday, Dec. 10. "Being a suicide survivor is a cult that no one wants to be a part of."

Alison Malmon founded Active Minds to increase awareness of mental health issues on college campuses nationwide.

"The whole stigma around mental illness has existed for such a long time, and I think it is finally time that people realize these issues affect everybody. It's time we start talking about it," said Malmon, who received the Tipper Gore "Remember the Children" Volunteer Award from the National Mental Health Association in June. A Churchill graduate, Alison Malmon graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in June.

"My goal is start student groups on campuses nationwide and to connect all young adults who are interested in the issue and are interested in raising awareness," Malmon said.

MALMON TOLD WHITMAN students that they have a responsibility to their friends should they notice someone having trouble.

"If anything is going wrong, if they are upset, if they are no longer interested in things they used to be interested in, you're not supposed to have the answers, but you can say, 'Hey, what's up? Do you want to talk about anything?' Just to let them know you're there," Malmon said.

She also encouraged anyone who experiences symptoms of depression or mental health issues to seek help from a therapist, from a trusted adult, or from a crisis or counseling center.

"I wish my brother had gotten help. He was able to mask his symptoms so well," Malmon said. "He did not have to suffer like he did in silence."

The Web site of Active Minds, Inc. is www.activemindsoncampus.org