UT students plan to destigmatize mental health

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Photo Credit: Alex Briseno | Daily Texan Staff

As the stress of finals season approaches, National Alliance on Mental Illness On Campus wants students to feel comfortable talking to others knowledgeable about mental illness to rid the stigma around mental health.

Only one semester old, the organization is dedicated to advocacy and support for students struggling with mental illness during some of the most stressful years of their lives, especially through its #BreakTheStigma week.

NAMI On Campus member Alexis McDonald said NAMI On Campus is unique from the Counseling and Mental Health Center in that it is completely student run. McDonald said this makes it less intimidating to approach members facing similar issues, as opposed to a therapist.

“Being a new organization, we wanted to brand our own week regarding mental health,” psychology sophomore McDonald said. “With this week, we wanted to show students what our organization is really about, which is being able to talk more about mental health and bringing it more into the conversation.”

The first annual #BreakTheStigma week offers an array of events for students to take part in, including Open Mic Night tonight, Mental Health Trivia on Wednesday and a mental health discussion on Thursday.

As students gathered around the organization’s table on Speedway to learn more about it Monday, students happily pet a therapy dog to relieve unneeded stress.

Rawan Fakhreddine, NAMI On Campus member, said she wants students to know they are not alone in fighting mental illness and that support is available.

“To think that you should be shunned because of a mental illness you are suffering with is completely wrong,” neuroscience junior Fakhreddine said.

“(Mental health) is something that should be spoken freely about so everyone can understand what mental health is, how mental health can take a toll on your physical state and what you can do to deal with it.”

Partner organizations CHMC, MasculinUT, Center for Students in Recovery and the Gender and Sexuality Center also helped NAMI On Campus implement #BreakTheStigma week and gain its footing as an established organization at UT.

Erin Walts, radio-television-film and business freshman, talked to members tabling and said stress is almost synonymous with the college experience.

“There’s a certain level of academic competitiveness that seems to invalidate stress as a mental health issue for some students,” Walts said. “While it’s good to be under pressure at times, I don’t think it’s a healthy educational environment to perpetuate constant stress and competition between students.”