“In Our Own Voice,” a unique public education program developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will be presented at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, in 006 Burton Business Building on the William Woods University campus.
Two trained consumer speakers will share personal stories about living with mental illness and achieving recovery. NAMI developed the program to help educate everyday people and reduce the stigma associated with having mental illness.
“In Our Own Voice is essentially an opportunity for people who don’t know everything about what we call ‘mental illness’ to come and meet two people who have and are recovering from mental illness,” said Halie Brooks, psychology club president.
Brooks had a big part in choosing to bring this event to campus.
“I chose this event because I feel that it’s important to remember that the people who have mental illness are exactly that—people,” said Brooks, “I know that as a psychology major I kind of become desensitized to that fact and start looking at the symptoms more than the people.”
The psychology club hosts events that fight the stigma of mental illness.
“There’s a lot of stigma associated with having a mental illness: ‘crazy,’ ‘insane,’ ‘lunatic.’ Maybe this event will convince people that having a mental illness is similar to having a physical illness like pneumonia,” said Brooks.
Brooks also is a member of Active Minds, and found NAMI when doing a web search. She proposed it to the club and is excited that the psychology club has been able to follow through and put on this event.
“The In Our Own Voice program intrigued me,” she said, “and I’ve been in contact with Alice Kliethermes from NAMI about bringing the event to campus ever since. NAMI developed the program to help educate everyday people and reduce the stigma associated with having mental illness.”
NAMI, the nation’s largest mental health organization, helps build better lives of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, support and research. The organization is committed to raising awareness and building community. NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI state organizations. They can work in local communities all across the country to raise awareness and provide education, support and advocacy.
The adviser of the psychology club is Dr. Caroline Boyer Ferhat, assistant professor of psychology and chair of the arts and behavioral sciences division.
“I think that this is an important event because it helps to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Approximately one in four adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness in a given year, which means that almost all individuals will be touched by mental illness in their lifespan, however, a stigma still remains around mental illness, mostly because of a lack of understanding,” said Boyer Ferhat.
Last semester the psychology club showed the “Awakenings” movie for an event and had a discussion afterward.
“I got a lot of positive feedback from those who attended, and I really look forward to sponsoring more events on campus. February, March and April should be exciting months for us. We’re exploring the possibility of bringing the RESPECT Institute to campus, too,” said Brooks.
Brooks said, “If you come in [to the events] with a closed mind, you won’t get anything out of it. If you come in with an open mind, expect to have a few of the things you think you know about mental illness to be challenged.”
Each event focuses on accepting mental illness, tearing down the stigma and the recovery and rehabilitation for those who are affected by this.
Boyer Ferhat said, “We see that treatment is more successful when individuals have a strong support system, especially at home, so raising awareness also helps with treatment efforts. On a more academic note, I think that this event is important for students who are planning to go into a helping profession, because so often their only exposure to mental illness is in textbooks and videos. Having an opportunity to listen to the stories of individuals living with mental illness allows them to see how these symptoms play out in the real world and impact functioning.”
Brooks said, “Hopefully students will gain a greater understanding of the meaning of mental illness, an overview of the journey from diagnosis to recovery, and maybe even a greater interest in psychology.”