BY VICTORIA ALFRED-LEVOW
Ten years ago, Steven and Amy Erlbaum started a dialog on mental health, hoping to educate young people on topics that are often stigmatized. Today, Ardmore’s Minding Your Mind has reached over 300,000 students across six states.
Steven Erlbaum’s Five Favorite Things
1. Estia. “Their food is healthy, fresh and very different from anything else we have in our area.”
2. 13 Reasons Why. “It spoke to and brought to light many, many issues of mental health, mental illness, and how our youth responds to lots of different situations.”
3. Villanova basketball. “They bring a lot of excitement to the Main Line.”
4. Saving Private Ryan. “I’m a fan of Steven Spielberg. I think he’s a master.”
5. Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts. “They bring me back to the ’70s and ’80s—my era.”
MLT: What is Minding Your Mind and what is its goal?
SE: It’s an organization to educate our youth about mental health, to reduce the incidences of substance abuse, some forms of bullying, suicide and isolation, and to educate our youth in talking about it.
MLT: Why did you start Minding Your Mind?
SE: I just feel that there’s a need in the community to help serve the underserved and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. People, young people particularly, suffer in silence. They feel uncomfortable, so they don’t share what’s going on in their minds. Their parents are confused about what could be mental illness, depression and typical adolescent behavior. We try to clear that up with students, parents and faculty members.
MLT: Why does Minding Your Mind use young adult speakers?
SE: Our speakers are typically in their 20s and have been through lots of trials and tribulations themselves. They have not only survived but thrived by understanding their illness and working very hard to make changes to reduce the pressures and complications with mental illness. The audience—typically the middle and upper school students—relates well to them and feels comfortable with hearing somebody they can relate to.
MLT: What do you hope that Minding Your Mind will accomplish in the next five years?
SE: What we’d like to do is reach as many people as possible. We’d like to create programs that schools can see, presentations from different speakers all over the country. We hope to have a major effect on our youth with drug abuse and bullying, depression, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm.