As I imagine most young adults feel, I started my first year of college with nervous anticipation. Going away to college provided a fresh start on a new life but also the pressure to make the most of the opportunity. Also, although I had an exciting future ahead of me, I still had the weight of my past with me that made campus life difficult.
Growing up with a parent with bipolar disorder and brain damage had left its mark on me—I still often experienced anxiety, feelings of powerlessness and isolation while away at school. I still struggled to cope effectively and find people who could understand. I learned quickly that no amount of distance from my family situation could change how I felt or the fact that my childhood didn’t quite match up with those of my peers, which I realized more and more as I socialized with new people my age.
I found hope while reading a campus newspaper article about student depression that mentioned NAMI on Campus, student-led mental health campus clubs. I knew immediately I had found an invaluable resource that could help me and others at my school.
In my junior year of college, I created NAMI’s University of Arizona campus club. Through it I established a wonderful supportive community that really made a positive impact on my life. The club empowered me to learn more about mental health and how to support my family while maintaining my own health. I saw directly how valuable peer support, self-advocacy and knowing you’re not alone can be.
Through our club’ campus-wide mental health awareness activities, student-run discussion group and our partnership with NAMI Southern Arizona (one of many local NAMI Affiliates nationwide), I learned about the issues that all college students face when it comes to mental health and how I can help address these issues.
As I enter my seventh year working for NAMI, I have learned a great deal about the mental health needs of college students. NAMI just recently published a national survey report on the experiences of college students living with mental health conditions. The report is a blueprint for what students want. Here are some highlights:
Students emphasized the critical need for the following services and supports to be available on campus:
As the survey shows and as other countless research findings have shown, mental health issues impact college students and they need our support. Most will experience these issues for the first time in their lives while attending college—catching them by surprise and leaving them ill-prepared to handle these issues on their own. They are not seeking help because they don’t know where or who to go to or they fear being negatively perceived by their campus community.
Every young adult deserves an understanding, helpful and supportive community like NAMI on Campus to turn to when life gets hard.
That is why NAMI has launched a new NAMI on Campus initiative and our commitment to college students. The NAMI on Campus website includes new resource sections to:
Most of all, we want to hear more from college students—you! What resources, tools or information do you need to address mental health issues at your local college communities? How can NAMI help? Please feel free to email me at [email protected] with suggestions.
Through my own life and my years working with young adults, I have seen firsthand how just one meaningful connection can really change the course of someone’s life. Working together, we can make these connections for every young adult in need. Let’s get started!
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
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