The University of Rhode Island has a variety of mental health resources, from the Counseling Center to the recently implemented Mental Health First Aid training program, but one resource students may not know about is the University of Rhode Island’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is a Student Senate recognized organization that was originally founded as a group of friends who talked about their experiences and issues, and later were inspired by a Yik Yak post.
“Someone was like, ‘hey I wish there was something on campus where I could reach out about mental health issues because I feel like people don’t really understand and I feel misunderstood,’” NAMI Secretary Brooke Taylor said. “One of the co-founders came together with another friend of mine and said, ‘hey let’s try to put together a group and make this a thing.’”
NAMI now currently holds weekly meetings that work to provide student run peer support network for their members. Members can come and speak about their struggles and how they are doing. The meetings also serve as a place to plan events and discuss ways to promote mental health awareness and ways to help end stigma.
“[You] are not alone in your struggle with mental health issues,” Vice President Jordan Scott said.
NAMI President LJ Wunschel described his reasoning for joining the club was that he originally transferred in and wanted to meet other people he could get along well with. Treasurer Tatyana Ventura got involved because of her passion to help others and also to be involved with a support group.
“NAMI is there for supporting anybody,” Taylor said. “Being different doesn’t matter in a sense because it is a stigma free environment.”
NAMI works throughout the year to put on events that represent mental health awareness. In April they will be partnering with Eureka to host a walk for eating disorders. They also plan to help with the Run Your Life 5k, which is dedicated to addiction awareness.
In the past, one of the group’s favorite event to host was hosting a table during the Fresh Check Day on the Quadrangle last year. The group was focused on art therapy and set up a blank canvas with paint filled balloons. Passerby could stop and throw darts at the balloon while also splattering paint onto the canvas.
One thing Wunschel wants students to know that they do not have to go to the meetings to be involved. For students interested in becoming a member or following NAMI, you can find them on Instagram and Facebook. NAMI also sends out a newsletter with information and upcoming events relating to mental health awareness, even if it is not sponsored by NAMI themselves. The newsletter serves as a way to take the large scatter of events and centralize them to make it easier to connect students with interests in mental health to relevant events.
NAMI meets Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in room 354 of the Memorial Union.
“Don’t be afraid to seek help, or to seek comfort for your struggles,” Ventura said. “I know that it’s difficult for people to like talk about their own issues because they’re afraid, but you don’t have to be afraid.”