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The Scarlet & Black

NAMI focuses on improving mental health on campus

By Sarah Licht
lichtsar@grinnell.edu

The Grinnell College chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) wants to make sure that all students’ mental health is accounted for and that everyone understands the importance of wellness and self-care on campus. The importance of NAMI is not only to help individuals with mental illnesses but also to educate the general population about mental illness and mental health.

“NAMI has chapters all across the US, and their overarching mission is to work to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Another huge thing NAMI does is advocate for public policy changes that benefit those suffering from mental illness by lobbying local legislatures through events like Day on the Hill. The last big piece of their mission is connecting people to resources like helplines and providing education programs nationwide,” said Kate Kwasneski ’21, a member of Grinnell NAMI.

At a campus level, NAMI “focuses on ways we can encourage an atmosphere of mental wellness on campus. This includes things like wellness breaks, hosting movie nights, creating flyers and bathroom readers with resources, collaborating with other groups and communicating with SHAW [Student Health and Wellness, previously SHACS] about student needs and concerns regarding mental health,” added Molly Nelson ’21. The club also engages in activities to improve self-wellness during its meetings on Wednesdays in JRC 227.

The College’s NAMI chapter is also dedicated to reaching out to College administration to allow students to voice their thoughts on what should be done regarding mental health. “One of our biggest events coming up is a talk called State of SHAW at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 11 in JRC 101. For this event, we are bringing the new Dean of Health and Wellness, Eric Wood, to discuss some of the changes going on in SHAW right now. This will be an opportunity for students to ask questions and get to know the new dean and his plans to improve SHAW,” said Kwasneski.

For those not so interested in the nitty-gritty of campus policies, NAMI also has a lineup of more artistic and creative activities for students. “Another event that we have coming up is our collaboration with the Maker Lab from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, April 12. This should be a really fun event as we plan on making our own fidgets, key chains, stickers and more,” Nelson said.

Still, it must be noted that the mental health services currently on campus are not up to par and can pose some accessibility issues for students in need. “Students who have more serious and chronic mental health conditions may not be able to receive the treatment they need through SHAW and have to seek treatment elsewhere, which can be difficult with few resources in town and limited insurance coverage,” Nelson said.

For other students looking to use the College’s services, limited access and long waits for College counselors can also pose another obstacle. Despite the issues that still need to be fixed, the College has made strides to try to improve mental health services on campus.

“I think a big step that Grinnell has already taken is creating the position of the Dean of Health and Wellness. Eric Wood is already making a lot of changes within SHAW that I think will have a great impact on the quality and effectiveness of our health services,” Nelson said.

The new position could also potentially allow for smoother communication between different administration because, “a lot of the time, information can get lost in transit between SHAW, Student Affairs, professors, disability resources and anyone else who needs to know something. A result of this is that students have trouble knowing where to look for information, or what the actual process is when it comes to things like accommodations and medical leave,” Kwasneski said.

Overall, the members of the Grinnell NAMI chapter believe that the College is taking steps in the right direction in bettering its mental health services.

“Over the year, I’ve seen mental health at Grinnell change a lot in how it’s addressed, and I’m pretty confident right now that it’s being changed for the better,” said Mary Rose Bernal ’19.

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