CNU's National Alliance on Mental Illness Chapter Hosts Panel

Student group works to make a difference in the lives of those affected by mental illness.

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Christopher Newport’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter is a student organization committed to promoting mental health awareness and advocacy and reducing the stigma faced by those who struggle with mental illness.

NAMI, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, advocates for access to services and treatment, and promotes research and awareness. On campus, the CNU chapter recently sponsored a panel, where participants spoke about mental health issues as they relate to college. The panel included a Hampton University professor and Dr. Stacey Villanueva, from CNU’s Office of Counseling Services.

“CNU's NAMI chapter advocates success as a group, with a particular focus on portions of the population that can be extremely vulnerable at times – I find that inspiring,” says Villanueva. “It is hard to put into words the importance of mental illness education because the effects are so vast. Without knowledge of mental illness, a community can feel powerless against it. With education, we gain the power to develop the tools and support to prevent, identify and treat mental illness.”

Paige Long, president of the Christopher Newport chapter, says, “we see a lot of people who are struggling with the same issues – or their best friend is. And they don't know exactly how to support themselves or support that person, so they come to learn how to talk more sensitively around that person or about the subject.”

In addition to events like the panel, NAMI holds regular meetings where members discuss different mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD or schizophrenia. Long adds that the group is working toward more interactive activities that include art and music.

Long is a junior majoring in psychology. For her, there’s a personal side to her NAMI membership. “I kind of hopped around a bit with some clubs last year,” she says. “When I found NAMI, I loved going every week because I identified with what we talked about, and because the members made it a welcoming space.” Long, who has had experience with mental illness from a young age, wanted college to be a time for her to help others.

“I definitely wanted to put myself in a position where I could be helpful and make sure there was an accessible, judgement-free place to get information on campus,” she says. “Where nobody necessarily has to know you're going through something like this.”

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