Lauren Ashley Tipton, a Washington and Lee University senior from Myrtle Beach, S.C., has won the Jed Foundation's annual Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award.
The award recognizes "a student who is reducing stigma around mental illness, raising awareness of mental health problems on campus, or encouraging help-seeking among his or her peers."
Tipton will receive a $2,000 cash award, a trip to New York to attend the Jed Foundation's annual gala in June and a video highlighting her award-winning work, which will be shown during the event.
A neuroscience major who plans to attend medical school and become a psychiatrist, Tipton founded and serves as president of Washington and Lee's chapter of Active Minds, the organization that supports campus-wide events and national programs to remove the stigma that surrounds mental-health issues.
Under Tipton's leadership, the W&L chapter grew from a small group to an organization that presented its successes at the Active Minds national conference last year. The group has tackled a variety of topics, ranging from eating disorders to bipolar disorder to depression. They achieved this by using a wide array of programming tactics that included large exhibits in central campus areas, numerous posters, hosting anonymous online story drives, and organizing Mental Health-based panels in which both undergraduates and law students participated.
Tipton was appointed to a four-person task force by the student Executive Committee in 2011 to explore issues of mental health on the W&L campus. Earlier this year, Active Minds raised almost $9,000 through a Walk-a-Thon in support of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
In an essay supporting her application for the Greenspan Awards, Tipton wrote: "I have personally struggled immensely with understanding people’s absolute refusal to acknowledge the stark reality of mental illness because it is ‘too uncomfortable’ or ‘too intense’…. It seems as if students are willing to participate in mental health advocacy and outreach, a catalyst was just needed to forcefully start the conversation on our campus and being a part of that catalyst is the achievement that I am most proud of."
In addition to her work with Active Minds, Tipton was recently inducted into Phi Beta Kappa; belongs to the Student Recruitment Committee; and chaired public relations and marketing for Chi Omega sorority. She belongs to the Beta Beta Beta Biology honor society and the Psi Chi psychology honor society. W&L named her a General of the Month last October.
The Jed Foundation was founded in 2000 by Donna and Phil Satow after they lost their son Jed to suicide. While trying to learn more about suicide and make sense of their unthinkable loss, the Satows discovered an urgent and unmet need for programming and resources that helped colleges, students and parents recognize and address the signs of emotional distress and suicide.
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs