A new club on campus, Utah State University’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI USU), wants to help students living with or affected by mental illness.
“Our goals are to advocate, educate and support people who are affected by mental illness, either directly or indirectly,” said Bremen Acord, a junior in social work and president of NAMI USU.
NAMI USU is part of a national network of likeminded college groups called NAMI On Campus. According to the organization’s website, NAMI USU is the fourth On Campus club in Utah. On Campus clubs are separate from regular NAMI affiliates, of which there are ten in Utah, including one for Cache Valley.
Acord said the club was formed partially in response to the mental health crisis declared by the Utah State University Student Association Executive Council.
“One in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 are affected by mental illness,” Acord said.
For those affected by mental illness, the outlook on a college campus is bleak.
“A good almost 73 percent of those people actually have some sort of a mental health crisis while on campus at a university, and then 30 percent of those people claim that the universities never hear about it or know that those things happen,” Acord said.
Several club members, including Acord, addressed the need to reduce the stigma around mental illness.
“I work in a group home for adults who suffer from mental illness, and seeing all the things they go through, I think there needs to be more support. And with the mental health crisis on campus, I think it’s really important that we are raising awareness and advocating and being there as a resource for students,” said Jennifer Hansen, a junior in social work who is responsible for the club’s public relations.
Reed Hepler, an undeclared student and NAMI USU member, has had personal experience with depression and is passionate about the cause.
“It’s important to me that people get their facts straight and that stigma is erased,” Hepler said.
Acord said he hopes to work with existing mental health resources such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse (CAPSA), and the Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information office (SAAVI). He also hopes to work with future student officers and form a support group for those affected by mental illness.
Laurie Shafer, a junior in social work and vice president of NAMI USU, said she believes the club will be a great resource to USU, “especially to increase education about mental illness and advocacy for it and also bust stigma, which I think is really important too.”
NAMI USU members kicked off their events by writing encouraging notes on postcards, and then handed them out on campus Tuesday, March 28.
Future events can be found via their Facebook group, NAMI USU, or on Twitter @NAMIUSU.
Photo by Joshua Hortin