Many people have friends and family who suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.
Some students turn those personal experiences into passions.
Students in the National Alliance for Mental Illness at IU had their callout Wednesday as they plan to raise awareness of mental illness to address mental health issues.
“It’s a grassroots organization,” said Reyan Coskun, the founder and president of NAMI at IU.
The organization works in small communities, as opposed to being monitored on a large scale, Coskun said.
Among the organization’s activities, the students have developed support groups for people who suffer from mental health issues and events for raising awareness of mental illness.
“It’s a support system for them, but it’s expanding and growing,” said Paul Fogleman, the faculty advisor for the organization.
Family-to-family classes are a staple of NAMI, Fogleman said.
In these 6-8 week classes, families teach other families who deal with mental health issues, Fogleman said.
“It’s for family members and friends diagnosed with mental health,” Coskun said. “The national chapter focuses a lot on family-to-family support groups and people affected by mental disorders.”
Many students who joined the organization had family members or friends who deal with mental illness.
Noelle Ibrahim, a freshman in sociology, said she became interested in mental health because her mother had general anxiety disorder.
Coskun herself became interested in mental health because her younger cousin was diagnosed with anorexia.
“What’s common to people who are in NAMI and how it started is that we have someone in our family who has a mental illness and they need care,” Fogleman said.
Since the organization started in Wisconsin in the 70s, it has spread across states, including to south-central Indiana, Fogleman said.
Last year NAMI at IU had a workshop with the Mental Health First Aid program at the Monroe County Library to teach skills to respond to the signs of mental illness, Coskun said.
Instructors from the program showed staff at the library how to respond to crises in mental illness, Coskun said.
After NAMI at IU registered with the national NAMI chapter last year, many opportunities opened up, Coskun said.
The group is trying to get a team for the Out of the Darkness Walks, in which people walk to raise awareness of suicide and donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Several hundred people turned out to the Bloomington Out of Darkness Walk last year to honor those who have taken their lives, Fogleman said.
“This year we’re going to focus on going to different organizations, especially different student organizations, and talk to them about mental health,” Coskun said.
Fraternities and sororities have especially expressed interest, Coskun said.
Molly Cunningham, Director of Mental Health for IU Culture of Care, met with Coskun to create ties with NAMI at IU but said there was nothing specific planned at the moment.
“IU is unique in that it’s rich in a lot of mental health organizations,” Coskun said. “There’s strength in numbers when it comes to these things.”