Tuesday, May 17, 2022
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National Alliance on Mental Illness panelists share their stories

Many college students struggle with their mental health and well-being. If they don’t, there is a good chance they know someone who does.

Luckily, there are organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that can help people struggling with mental health.

NAMI is an organization that holds all kinds of awareness and educational activities to aid people with mental illness and encourage them to help others as well.

The organization also strives to eradicate stigmas against mental illness and shape public perception to be more understanding of mental illness.

NAMI held its first sponsored discussion panel at the Student Union last week. Four brave women shared their stories about mental illness and encouraged other attendees to open up as well.

The first panelist, Gabrielle Jones, started with a discussion about stereotypes. As a gay Christian woman, the negative notion that she should “leave Christianity” because of the outrageous stereotype that “gay people don’t belong in Christianity” had always been heavily imprinted on her.

Another stereotype that always stuck with her was that she “was supposed to act a certain way” because she was gay.

She explained that she combatted these negative notions by realizing these stereotypes come from ignorance rather than hate.

“I am who I am,” said Jones. “I am not ashamed of myself.”

Kristen Abell, a marketing communications worker at UMKC, added that “stereotypes can be combatted through storytelling.”

By sharing your story on mental illness to someone, Abell said it becomes easier for that person to understand what you’re going through.

“Not only do you inform people about mental illness by outing your story, but by doing so, you also humanize yourself,” said Abell.

Rachel Hilton, the daughter of a pastor, joined the scene by sharing anecdotes about her upbringing.

As a kid, she felt she was worthless because she didn’t feel beautiful enough. She urged attendees to not feel the same way.

Hilton also discussed the misconception that her father was forced to be strong and wasn’t allowed to have anxiety or depression because he was “the man of the house and a pastor.”

She explained it’s completely okay to feel vulnerable, despite being a brawny man.

Marketing student Ugochi Ohale concluded the panel by sharing powerful poems she had written. Her poems dealt with the subject matters of race, police brutality, depression and how no one is ever alone when it comes to struggling with anxiety.

All the panelists agreed that in the midst of mental illness-related tribulation, engaging in activities such as working out and eating healthy sometimes aren’t enough.

It is important, however, to have a good support system of people who care about you.


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