February 11, 2013

My freshman year at N.C. State was one of solitude, of isolation and trips home every weekend. Struggling with bouts of depression that had been lingering since high school, I rarely left my room outside of class and meals throughout the entire year, and accordingly, I did not make a single friend. Not knowing where to turn to, I maintained this lifestyle until the beginning of my sophomore year. Then, everything changed.

Lindsey Racz, center, vice president of NAMI on Campus North
Carolina State, and Megan Rogers, right, president, at a suicide
candlelight vigil in September 2012. Courtesy Megan Rogers.

When scouring my email for anything important, I stumbled upon an advertisement for an event: “The National Alliance on Mental Illness: First General Meeting.” As a psychology major and someone who holds mental health issues dear to her heart, I immediately felt a connection and decided to attend. Walking into that meeting was one of the most intimidating things I had done in college up to that point; I almost walked away due to my unfounded anxieties and fears. However, once I took my first steps inside, I was met by some of the friendliest, understanding, and supportive people I have met to this day.

Serving as last year’s secretary and this year’s president of our branch of NAMI on Campus has broadened my horizons and increased my passion for mental health education and advocacy. During my time as an officer, we have planned and implemented a variety of activities and events that have benefited students, all with the aim of raising awareness and educating students about mental illness on campus. Some of these events an annual suicide prevention candlelight vigil, where we partner with our campus’s counseling center and other groups to remember those who have died by suicide and educate the community on suicide prevention; biannual movie nights, where we select popular films that depict mental illness to watch and thoroughly discuss; and biannual de-stress events held in a popular area of campus that help students relax and learn about stress management techniques before final exam week. Our group tries, as a whole, to make every event that we hold both enjoyable and informative.

Other events that our NAMI on Campus group holds are a NAMI In Our Own Voice presentation each year, as well as hosting a QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Suicide Prevention Training session for members of the campus community to attend. We also form a team for the annual NAMI North Carolina NAMIWalk and had a Super Team for the first time this past year. Aside from that, NAMI on Campus N.C. State started a peer support group last spring. Though the group is still small, it has a solid foundation through our officers and is sure to grow in the upcoming years.

A banner created for a Veteran’s Day event raising awareness of
PTSD. Courtesy Megan Rogers.

Over the past few years, our NAMI on Campus group has been steadily increasing our membership and presence across campus. By not only providing education, but also advocacy and support, we hope to positively influence the lives of those around us in the campus community. No one should have to suffer in silence, fearful of stigmatization. No one should feel as though they are alone and misunderstood. No one should feel like I did.

That is why NAMI on Campus exists. That is why I am proud to be the President of our NAMI on Campus group. We strive each and every day to make a difference in the lives of the individuals in our campus community and raise awareness to ultimately end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

From a personal standpoint, joining NAMI on Campus has been one of the most life-changing things I have done in college. It has given me solidification in my career decision to pursue my doctorate in clinical psychology to both practice and conduct research. It has provided me close friendships with people I am now proud to call my best friends. But most of all, it has put me in a position where I have the ability to make an impact on others’ lives in the same way that mine has been affected, help others the way I was helped. That, perhaps, is all the difference.

Megan Rogers is the president of NAMI on Campus North Carolina State.

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