Our History

Free Minds began as a USC student organization in the spring of 2012. Started by USC students Danny Lee and Patra Childress, Free Minds was devoted to raising awareness about mental and emotional illness in the college community through film. Disturbed by the overwhelming sense of silence and stigma in the college population on mental illness, Danny and Patra hoped to give students a chance to express their opinions and experiences with mental illness in an open, welcoming environment. Free Minds partnered with the USC Cinema School and the USC Counseling Center to educate the college community about the prevalence and complexity of mental illness through documentaries, short films, and artistic pieces. Free Minds has now expanded its scope beyond the college community as a non-profit organization to voice the experiences of people from all walks of life who have been affected by mental illness.

What we are about

We are a coalition of students that works together to bring awareness to issues surrounding mental illness and its stigmatization and provide active support for those suffering. As advocates for open dialogue and understanding, we coordinate fundraisers and events that shine a light on topics like suicide prevention and emotional well-being, and as a community, we provide a safe, welcoming environment for students to share their experiences, feelings, and thoughts about mental illness. Our members are trained to become active peer therapists who can recognize symptoms of emotional and mental distress in others and give them the tools to cope with their issues.

Our ongoing effort, the “Make it You” project, collects creative submissions, such as art, poetry, and film, from people who have had experiences with mental illness. Little by little, submission by submission, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Our Team

Danny Lee

Chief Executive Officer

Patra Childress

Chief Development Officer

Arif Pendi

Chief Operations Officer