A new blog managed by University Georgia students is trying to provide those with mental health struggles a place to learn, educate, and discuss student mental health.
“I think it’s really important that people with mental illness have a voice,” said Ashley Reed, a sophomore studying psychology, anthropology and sociology.
Reed, co-public relations head for the National Alliance on Mental Illness at UGA, has been pushing this idea for a blog.
The newly formed chapter of NAMI was approved last February and is fighting against the stigma of mental illness through educating both those that have and have not been affected by mental illness.
Longer term plans include a blogging committee in preparation for a steadier stream of posts that will include both general members and one or two that will act as editors.
These articles which will revolve around day-to-day life with mental illness, recovery and mental health education will be written by everyone, not only those with mental illness.
With a first article discussing mental illness and identity, more articles are expected to come featuring topics in various categories like anxiety and identity.
A total of 64% of respondents to a national NAMI survey revealed that they were no longer attending school because of a mental health related reason. These respondents included 765 people with a mental health condition that are currently enrolled in college or have been within the past 5 years. Of that 64%, half did not even access mental health services and support from the school.
Accommodations and supports from the university staff, faculty and fellow peers were listed as the most effective way to keep students with mental illness enrolled in school in the study.
Struggles with On-Campus Help
While the University of Georgia provides accommodation options for those with mental illness, restrictions and limitations deter students from these services.
The Center for Counseling and Psychiatric Services or CAPS is UGA’s most popular source for mental health counseling on campus. CAPS’ prices are set at $25 per session with a maximum of 25 sessions.
One student, Lacey Walker, a freshman studying psychology from Chatsworth, Georgia, expressed disappointment in the service. When seeking help with a previously diagnosed condition last fall, Walker was denied service after speaking with CAPS as her condition was long-term. She was referred.
Though referral is often necessary when time is limited, many students feel overwhelmed as they feel that they cannot receive the help that they need.
Many patients seeking help do not reach anywhere near the maximum 25 sessions available due to financial struggle or even the service’s limited room and availability.
NAMI UGA’s blog is working to counteract these occurrences, which can work against students attempting to find help. Many students feel alone, and many are left unaware of other resources and services available on campus.
“Strength In Numbers”
“For me and other people I’ve talked to, feeling like you’re alone or like you’re different or like it’s only you going through that is probably one of the most destructive thoughts you can have, but I don’t know I mean specifically for each mental illness it’s going to be different the way you approach. I’d say strength in numbers is one of the biggest things.”
Alex Marion, president of NAMI UGA and a sophomore studying psychology pre-med from Alpharetta, said this about what students with mental health issues need most.
“Definitely having a support group,” said Walker about what is important to help students.
“I think one of the most helpful things though is to have a support system, because as someone who has struggled with mental illness, in my past, it has been one of the most helpful things to know that I have friends and family that I can talk to.” said Reed in accordance with both Walker and Marion.
Alongside the blog, NAMI UGA also plans on creating support groups “for students by students” on campus said Reed.
Being on campus and among peers makes the ultimate difference for many students seeking help. Accessibility and the potential to network with those that can support you are essential for most.
“If you can find at least one supportive friend that can be enough, and you have to choose carefully who is the best person to support you.” said Anne Shaffer, an associate professor studying behavioral and brain sciences within UGA’s psychology department.
NAMI at UGA is certainly working to make strides in assisting those with mental health conditions in gaining access to a more varied amount of options through peers and on campus resources.
B roll: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9UhCQKwjelsaWZYcFJvN2ZRbXc