October 7, 2003
College students face overwhelming stress and anxiety during their college years. It is not uncommon to find college students who struggle with depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. Moreover, many of the students who are in need of mental health services encounter substandard counseling resources at their college or university. Consequently, frustration at the lack of campus-based mental wellness services has led to the creation of the first NAMI campus affiliates at Arizona State University in 2002 and Louisiana State University in 2003. NAMI ASU and LSU provide and offer students and faculty support, education, and awareness regarding mental illness on their campuses.
NAMI continues to acknowledge and address the needs of college students by supporting the creation of affiliates at college campuses across the country. The Campus Affiliate Initiative is designed to reach out to college students. In partnership with the NAMI state organizations and local affiliates, campus affiliates are working to provide educational resources that inform students about mental illness and prevent stigma.
Although Arizona State and Louisiana State now have student organizations that allow young people to provide support for friends and fellow students recovering from mental illness, support and assistance are needed on many other campuses as well. Unfortunately, adequately funded and easily accessible mental health resources on college campuses are the exception rather then the norm. In spite of increasing demand, counseling centers are often faced with declining resources and limited availability. Students face multiple barriers to getting help as the stigma towards mental illness continues.
Still, a growing number of young people have the conviction that they need to work to address issues of poor education, inadequate services, and stigma. In addition to the first campus affiliates at ASU and LSU, new affiliates are being planned or established at campuses in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina. While many students are showing interest in starting a NAMI affiliate on their college campus, NAMI also needs the help of state and local affiliates in jumpstarting interest and publicizing the initiative at other schools.
Because most NAMI state organizations and local affiliates are in close proximity to a college, their members can assist the college affiliate efforts in several ways. Affiliate leaders should discuss the idea of achieving a NAMI college affiliate thoroughly with their members. Members can then contact a nearby university’s counseling or mental health center, psychology department, or health-related departments to gauge faculty and staff’s potential interest in the sponsorship of a NAMI student group. Other ideas include asking professors to allow an engaging speaker talk to a class about mental illness, and writing a "special" to campus newspaper editors detailing mental health statistics at the college level and preventative measures in the form of a NAMI campus affiliate. Finally, on a pure grassroots level, local affiliate members can gain the university’s permission to set up a table or booth in the school’s student center or other popular social gathering place and distribute educational material.
For more information on NAMI ASU go to: http://www.geocities.com/asu_nami/NAMI-ASU