“Big Things Have Small Beginnings” | New Campus Group Combats Mental Illness

Students suffering from mental illness often try to deal with their struggles alone. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one out of every four college-aged students in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental illness. Across the nation, NAMI has a strong presence on many college campuses. These groups raise awareness about the issue and connect students with each other, reminding them they aren’t alone in their struggles.

NAMI has not had a presence on the UMKC campus. Recently, a few of UMKC’s own decided to change that.

U-News sat down with NAMI members Michelle Magri, Gabrielle Jones and Cassandra Whitney, all students in the counseling psychology master’s program, to discuss NAMI and its function at UMKC.

Regarding the group’s vision, Magri stated how they hope to interact with mental illness in a unique way by “advocating and bringing awareness to the UMKC community as a whole.”

The group plans to address common misconceptions about mental illness. Many people still believe that those struggling do not have genuine conditions, or reduce them to societal caricatures.

(Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness) 1 out of every 5 Americans suffers from a diagnosable mental illness. For college students, that number increases to 1 out of every 5.

(Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness) 1 out of every 5 Americans suffers from a diagnosable mental
illness. For college students, that number increases to 1 out of every 5.

“Our goal is to bridge the gap for individuals who are afraid to seek help because of these stigmas or other reasons,” Magri said. “There’s so much that we want to do.”

Despite the daunting task of getting started as a new campus organization, NAMI plans to jump right into reaching the community. Stigma Free Days, dedicated to simply raising awareness and making a safe place for those dealing with mental illness, are a simple yet promising idea in the works.

Beyond that, NAMI plans for events like walks and fundraisers to gain more traction. Jones and Whitney encouraged students to get involved.

“The more people that join, the more input they can give on what we would like to do,” Whitney said.

Jones stated that while most current members have a professional interest in mental illness, “[we] would really like members who deal with these things on a personal level.”

While funding and planning are key to making change possible, Dr. Melisa Rempfer, NAMI’s faculty sponsor, says they ultimately serve a singular greater purpose.

“We want to help students feel less alone,” she said.

NAMI members believe that big things have small beginnings. While combating mental illness is no easy task, UMKC has a new organization up to the job.

Students interested in learning more can visit roogroups.collegiatelink.net/organization/NAMI or contact Michelle Magri at mmmdm6@mail.umkc.edu.

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