Student Org Spotlight: NAMI On Campus promotes mental health discussion

The National Alliance on Mental Illness On Campus is a student-led organization that seeks to foster a judgment-free community to discuss mental health and work to de-stigmatize the issue on campus. The club aims to educate people about mental illness and normalize the conversation regarding mental health both in the club and on campus.

Ideally, it should be as socially acceptable to say that you’re going to a therapist as it is to say you’re going to a doctor and as acceptable to say that you’re feeling anxious as it is to say that you have a sore throat,” said NAMI On Campus President Rebekah Oviatt.

Students are given the chance to speak freely about their experiences with mental health and/or mental illness. Though students are met with compassion and understanding, NAMI On Campus does not function as a treatment for mental health issues or illnesses.

It is important to be clear that NAMI is not a support group, nor is it an acceptable alternative to receiving help or treatment for anyone struggling with their mental health,” Oviatt said. “NAMI is an excellent place to ask and learn about what resources are available on campus and to find people who will help you navigate those resources.”

NAMI On Campus focuses on hosting events to educate the Tulane community on mental illness and has partnered with several on-campus organizations, including the Healthy Veggie Club, Project Heal and the Student Health Advisory Committee. In collaboration with these organizations, NAMI On Campus sponsors campus-wide initiatives and eliminates obstacles for students struggling with mental illness.

With Tulane’s third annual Celebrate Mental Health Arts and Music Festival quickly approaching, NAMI On Campus is teaming up with a number of other student-led organizations that focus on mental health to put on an event from 12-3 p.m. Nov. 11 on Bruff Quadrangle. The purpose of the event is to de-stigmatize mental health by showing students how these issues have an impact on students’ everyday lives, regardless of whether they are diagnosed with a mental illness.

Additionally, NAMI On Campus will be putting on a variety of different workshops the week leading up to the festival.

“While they are not 100 percent nailed down yet, these will include bringing in speakers, panels, artists and putting on activities to talk about mental health in a way that might be more in-depth than the day-of festival allows,” Oviatt said.

NAMI On Campus is also making sure its new freshman members have a role in planning these events.

“I want to make sure that the freshmen really get integrated into the NAMI family that we’ve established over the years,” NAMI On Campus Vice President Isabelle Elderkin said. “We’re offering tons of freshmen leadership opportunities, which will help them get involved in the campus community as a whole.”

According to Oviatt, NAMI On Campus has seen a drastic spike in membership this fall, and its efforts to make freshmen feel included by increasing the number of leadership positions available has been effective. 

“It makes me feel more confident in building my skills and learning how to navigate campus,” Shay Prinz, design apprentice for the Celebrate Mental Health Arts and Music Festival, said. “It also automatically made me feel more included in the club while allowing me to further the club’s purpose of promoting a healthy mental environment on campus.”

A blog page for the club is in the works to potentially create another space in which members can share their own experiences and artwork relating to mental health to reach out to a wider audience. NAMI On Campus also plans on collaborating with LGBTQ+ and multicultural student organizations this year to discuss the intersections between race, sexual orientation and mental health.

NAMI On Campus meets at 8:30 p.m. every Sunday in the Sally Barksdale Student Organizations Center in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. All Tulane students are welcome to attend meetings at any point during the semester.

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