Club Spotlight: Active Minds Encourages Conversation About Student Mental Health


Credit: Sofia Malhas

As co-leaders of Hackley’s Active Minds chapter, (from left) Sabrina Reyes, Sofia DeSpirito, Reagan Beagley, Eliza Podvalny, and Remi Myers, record a podcast that provides the community with advice and resources surrounding wellbeing. In their most recent episode, Active Minds discussed Spring Break, daylight savings, and the upcoming AP exam period. To incentivize their listeners, club members put together a small self care giveaway mentioned towards the end of the episode.

Active Minds is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy for mental health awareness through peer-to-peer support. Following the suicide of her brother in 2003, the CEO of Active Minds, Ali Malmon, sought to end the silence that caused her brother to suffer alone and ultimately take his own life. Among its many chapters, Hackley’s Active Minds club is driven by the mission to spread the conversation about mental health schoolwide and offer a more direct support system for all students.

President of Hackley’s Active Minds club, Junior Eliza Podvalny said, “I’ve always been very interested in mental health and it’s something that isn’t talked about even though the majority of students suffer individually. I wanted to create a club where people can come together and support each other because I know that Hackley can foster a really stressful environment.”

“If you struggle with problems alone, which I did in freshman year, it’s not always the best feeling. I wanted to create a supportive environment where students felt safe in. Freshman year I was a new kid, and because of COVID, I think it was really hard for me to connect with my peers and acclimate to the community. It was difficult to find a group of friends that I clicked with. I eventually found my friend group, but I really wanted to do this for incoming freshmen who have difficulty finding friends. I want them to know that they’re not alone.”

Eliza is also part of Hackley’s Independent Science Research program and mainly studies behavioral health with a concentration in Alzheimer’s disease. Regarding links between her research and Active Minds, Eliza said, “My interest in psychology allows me to see connections between what I read about in research publications and the information that Active Minds posts on social media. I really enjoy sharing the science side of mental health with students.”

Eliza and her co-leaders, Reagan Beagley, Sabrina Reyes, Sofia DeSpirito, and Remi Myers, felt that new generations of students were in need of a student-based outlet that both supported and encouraged them, especially after their extended time spent indoors during the pandemic. Through interactive learning via an Instagram account, podcast, and in-school activities, the leaders of Active Minds have sought to raise awareness and teach students about healthy ways of managing day-to-day stress. 

Expanding on her point about the difficulties of Hackley’s academic rigor, Eliza talked about the importance of Active Minds both academically and socially. She said, “I think that Active Minds is a helpful resource that teaches you how to learn about managing stress and anxiety in a healthy way.”

As far as plans go for the growing club and its new podcast, Eliza is enthusiastic about future filmed episodes and self-care giveaways that students should look out for in the future. To expand their community outreach, the leaders of Active Minds hope to host a picnic on the Hudson River in the coming weeks and conduct an interview with Donovan Taylor Hall, a youth empowerment advocate.