In a few words, the mission statement of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at UMBC is this: To promote mental well-being and awareness about mental health on campus. The club consists of students that want to promote a safe environment for both coping with and learning about mental illnesses.
Junior bioinformatics major and treasurer of NAMI Veneeth Antony is aware of the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses. Antony said, “we feel there is a huge stigma and people don’t want to talk about it. We try to educate our members as much as we can and we use our general body members to reach out to as many people as we can.”
The club puts emphasis on all forms of mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety to stress about school. Mental illness is not limited to the major issues that students tend to hear about. Antony, and the rest of NAMI, are very conscious of this fact. Antony said, “People tend to go straight to depression, but there’s so much more than that. It is a very broad group. Even just dealing with stress and self-care is part of mental health.”
This year, NAMI has put an emphasis on working with other student organizations on campus to promote education about mental health. In fall 2017, they partnered with the South Asian Student Association and attended an event that SASA held. At this event, NAMI was able to present a video that showcased the relationships between students, parents and mental health.
The most constant, and largest, event that NAMI holds is called My Story. My Story is a time for students to speak publicly and openly about their experiences with mental health issues. NAMI has held this event every year it has been present on campus.
The president of NAMI, physics education major Phillip McGregor, spoke at a My Story event two years ago and has since expanded the event even more. He said, “My Story is a formal format for people to express their experiences with mental illnesses. Afterwards, a lot of people will tell the speakers that their story resonated with them and helped them with issues that they have been dealing with. It helps the speakers know that they aren’t alone, as well as helping the audience with the same thing.”
This year, My Story will be held in the Skylight Lounge on March 27. McGregor and the rest of NAMI are already working on ways to make it consistently better.
In future, the club aims to work with even more student organizations on campus to promote mental health education. It also plans on holding a NAMI festival, which will showcase how student organizations on campus are helping their own members with mental health issues, particularly stress — a mental health issue that NAMI feels has a big impact on college campuses.
With NAMI on campus, there will always be a safe environment for students to freely discuss mental health.