New Semester, New NAMI on Campus Clubs
By Dana Crudo, CAAC program manager
As college students across the country start new school semesters, many are also starting new NAMI on Campus clubs to address mental health issues on colleges across the country.
NAMI on Campus is an exciting extension of NAMI's mission into the campus community. NAMI on Campus clubs are student-led clubs that tackle mental health issues on campus by raising mental health awareness, educating the campus community, supporting students, promoting services and supports and advocating.
These clubs are open to all students, whether they live with a mental health condition, are a family member or friend or have a general interest in mental health. NAMI on Campus clubs aim to address the mental health needs of all students so they have positive, successful and fun college experiences.
As mental health issues become more prevalent than ever on college campuses, NAMI on Campus clubs have increased in popularity as a positive way to help address these issues and make a difference in the lives of those who start the clubs and their peers.
Aaron Chen, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is excited to get his club up and running this spring semester.
“As a person who has both experienced and seen the devastating effects of mental illness, the issue of mental health awareness and education is especially close to my heart,” Aaron said. “Since society has placed such a large stigma on such issues, it is extremely difficult for those affected by mental illness to speak out about their struggles, especially on a college campus. This is why I chose to start a NAMI campus club.”
Aaron’s not the only college student to recognize the benefits of becoming involved with NAMI on Campus.
“NAMI on Campus has been such an incredible gift in my life,” said Amanda Swindle, student secretary at the NAMI on Campus at Christopher Newport University. “It has allowed me to meet and connect with students around my campus, who have had or are going through similar experiences as my own, related to mental illness. I feel accepted by these groups of people and am so fortunate to have them in my life, supporting a wonderful cause such as mental health.”
NAMI on Campus clubs host a wide range of activities that help create a supportive college experience and campus life for all students.
“We provide mental health education, advocacy, and support through a variety of events that serve the students themselves. Whether it be through a movie night, de-stress event, educational training, suicide vigils or social get-together, we are dedicated to meeting its students' particular needs," said Megan Rogers, president, NAMI on Campus North Carolina State. “I joined NAMI on Campus for numerous reasons: first, to connect with those similar to myself in a supportive environment, but also to positively impact others around campus and contribute to ending the stigma and isolation associated with having a mental illness.”
Many NAMI on Campus clubs often collaborate with their NAMI State Organization and NAMI Affiliate to bring NAMI programs like In Our Own Voice, Peer-to-Peer and NAMIWalks to college campuses.
In response to the growing popularity of NAMI on Campus, NAMI has recently revamped the program to offer more resources, tools and opportunities to student leaders and to the NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates that support NAMI on Campus clubs. These include:
- A new NAMI on Campus Startup Packet that contains everything students need to start a club, including tips on recruiting club members and advisors, questions to ask their schools, sample club constitutions, bylaws and mission statements, club officer descriptions and other useful tools.
- An updated NAMI on Campus website to provide information about college mental health issues and NAMI on Campus.
- A NAMI on Campus leaders only section of the website where students can access exclusive content to help them start, run and sustain their clubs.
- A NAMI on Campus e-group for students to network with each other, receive important updates about the program and learn about opportunities to get more involved in the mental health field.
- A comprehensive Ideas Booklet to provide NAMI on Campus clubs with a wide range of activities they can implement on their campus.
- Promotional materials to help spread the word about NAMI on Campus.
NAMI has also streamlined the process for starting a club to make it as easy as possible for students to complete. The process can be summarized in three main steps:
- Notify NAMI of your interest to start a NAMI on Campus club by completing an online interest form.
- Get recognized by your school as a campus club.
- Get endorsed and approved as a NAMI on Campus club. This step includes connecting with a NAMI State Organization and NAMI Affiliate to receive local support, resources and contacts.
NAMI hopes these new resources will provide more support to existing NAMI on Campus leaders and help encourage more students to take initiative and start NAMI on Campus clubs at their schools.
“With the help and support from NAMI, my ultimate hope is to not only provide a safe and understanding haven for those who need it, but to also become a voice for mental health awareness and advocacy on campus,” Aaron said.