According to Taryn Eubanks, a graduate student in the College of Pharmacy, college can be a taxing on students’ mental health.
“We as students need to know what good mental health is, ways to obtain mental health and when to seek help when your mental health is suffering,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks is the president of Harding’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a student-led organization working to bring awareness to mental health on campus.
The chapter is one of nine in the state of Arkansas and works to bring awareness and support to those with mental illnesses.
“What we in HU NAMI do is work to spread awareness, educate and fight the stigma on mental illnesses,” Eubanks said. “From ADHD to major depressive disorder to schizophrenia, we want students to know that they are not alone in their health struggle. You would not tell a patient with a heart condition to just get over it. The same should be applied to mental illnesses. Just because you cannot always physically see the illness’ symptoms does not make it any less real.”
The chapter was brought to campus in 2015 by Julie Kissack, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and College of Pharmacy alumna Shelbie Stickels.
“NAMI is a vitally important resource in the community and I am thrilled that there is now a student group at Harding,” Kissack said.
According to Zach Godwin, a graduate student in the College of Pharmacy, there is also an educational component to HU NAMI’s work.
“Being a member of HU NAMI means I’m given the opportunity to educate society about the many mental illnesses that impact people all around them,” Godwin said. “As a student pharmacist, with a focus in psychiatric pharmacy, I’m led to help patients achieve an overall better quality of life through medication, therapy and education.”
According to Kissack, the organization was made for students, to help students.
“HU NAMI means that Harding students have another resource available to learn about living mentally healthy,” Kissack said. “Being in school can be quite challenging and HU NAMI is a resource for education, friendships and fun.”
HU NAMI director of communication junior Yovani Arismendiz said the organization’s goal is to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding mental health within the student body.
“We believe (the student body) is the best starting place to end the stigma,” Arismendiz said. “The stigma associated with mental illness is that the person who has a mental illness is responsible for it, which is not true.”
According to Arismendiz the stigma surrounding mental illness is prevalent in his home country of Panama as well. Arismendiz volunteered with a church group that assisted the sick and mentally disabled, and said this experience gave him a personal connection to the mission of HU NAMI.
“I saw how people wrongly referred to those with mental illnesses,” Arismendiz said. “I understood then that there were many myths and misconceptions about mental illness. That is why when I heard of HU NAMI, I immediately felt committed to the cause.”
Arismendiz said the stigma surrounding mental illness is related to name-calling, judging or making another person feel less-than or atypical because of their mental illness.
“Too often, we, as a general population, either overestimate or underestimate mental illnesses,” Eubanks said. “What I mean by this is we either think they are ‘crazy’ or faking it. This stigma isolates so many people struggling with these illnesses and causes people to hesitate to seek help. HU NAMI is trying to slowly chip away at this stigma by making mental illness understood and an open topic to talk about.”
Godwin added that part of HU NAMI’s job is to create a safe place for those with mental illnesses to ask questions.
“HU NAMI breaks the stigma of mental illness and allows patients to openly ask questions that they may have been embarrassed to ask before, and I want to be there to answer them,” Godwin said.
Monday, Feb. 5 the organization will be hosting a “paint and relax” event at 7 p.m. For more information about the event or the organization, follow “HU NAMI on Campus” on Facebook.
Written by Shelbi Bridges and Raianne Mason