Powerful talk raises awareness for mental illness

The first NAMI on Campus Talk occurred during Suicide Awareness Week to spread support and awareness for those who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness student organization at UMKC organized and hosted the talk. NAMI on campus provides treatment resources and builds a community to help students get the help they need.

Jane Gray, the co-founder of Active Minds and a social work student at UMKC, shared her battle with depression. Speaking alongside Dr. Steve Arkin, a neurologist and the co-founder of Speak-Up, she discussed different ways of coping with mental illness at the event last Wednesday. Questions from the audience followed the speeches.

Active Minds is a new student group at UMKC. The group encourages students to connect with others who have similar experiences, build a support network and learn strategies to best cope with mental illness.

Similarly, Speak Up works to break the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness. Arkin also helps campuses and organizations recognize the signs of depression. A part of that work includes joining in discussions, such as the NAMI on Campus Talk.

“Suicide is the endpoint of a real disease known as depression,” said Arkin. “It’s just as real as cancer.”

Arkin’s oldest son committed suicide in 2015 while away at college. After hearing that his son was having a seizure, Dr. Arkin and his wife made the 9 hour drive to Chicago.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. (Source:
National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Upon arrival, they were met with the news that their son had overdosed. According to Arkin, it was their son’s first and last suicide attempt.

“We need to get rid of the stigma that this is just a thing. This should shock you that someone who was sitting next to you in class is now dead,” Arkin said, encouraging peers to provide support and report any behavior indicating suicidal ideations.

Both Arkin and Gray insist that the easiest thing you can do for someone with depression is be there for them.

“You mean something to me” and “people are going to be there for you and they’re not going to turn away,” are things you can say to someone suffering from depression.

“Isolation strengthens the disease,” said Arkin. “Spend the day with them. Even one event—it makes the difference.”

NAMI on Campus president Michelle Magri urges students looking for a support network to join the organization.  The next NAMI on Campus Talk is in Nov.

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