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Psychology students ready to fight mental illness stigma during awareness week

October 1, 2015
By cnp
Posted in Psychology

The University of the Ozarks' psychology program as well as the student-led Psychology Club will host a series of events on campus in conjunction with the national Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 5-9.

Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), Mental Illness Awareness Week is held during the first week of October to bring public awareness to mental illness issues and provide support.

This year’s national theme revolves around building a movement through the new StigmaFree initiative.  According to NAMI, "being stigma free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues and taking the StigmaFree pledge." The hashtag for the theme is #IAmStigmaFree.

MaryMargaret Portera, a senior psychology and health science major from Hot Springs, Ark., said awareness is the top goal for the campus effort.

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The Psychology program and Psychology Club will sponsor a candlelight vigil on the campus mall at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6, as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

"Our goal is to make people aware of the severity of mental illness and how prevalent it is, especially on college campuses," said Portera, who is president of the Psychology Club. "We want students who are struggling with mental illness or who know someone who is to know they are not alone and that there are counseling services available on campus. The more people are aware of this issue, the more they can help themselves or others."

Senior psychology major Catherine Jones said this year’s campus theme, #IAmStigmaFree, is an important initiative.   

"We are challenging people to be stigma free," said Jones. "It seems to me that so many times people with mental illness are defined by their mental illness. You hear things like, ‘Oh, he’s schizophrenic, or oh, she’s depressed.’ Mental illness doesn’t define a person…ever."

The weeks’ campus events will include a "Meet the Campus Counselor & Know the Facts About Mental Illness" event on Monday, Oct. 5; a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, Oct. 6; and a "Fortune Friday" event on Friday, Oct. 9.

Sophomore psychology major Elias Loria said the candlelight vigil on the campus mall is one of his favorite events of the week.

"To see the campus community take the time to come together, light candles, and pray for those with mental illness is really special," Loria said.


Mental Illness Awareness Week
October 5-9, 2016  

Theme of the Week: #I Am Stigma Free

Monday, Oct. 5
11 a.m.- 1 p.m.:  "Meet the Campus Counselor & Know the Facts about Mental Illness."  Outside the cafeteria
6:30 p.m.: Movie "Cake."  Room 129, Smith/Broyles Science
Tuesday, Oct. 6
All Day: "Twitter Tuesday." Send Positive and Encouraging Tweets via Student Life Twitter Page 
7:30 p.m.:  Candlelight Vigil in front of Robson Library
Tuesday is National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness
Wednesday, Oct. 7
11 a.m.-1 p.m.:  "We Pledge" event.  Outside the Cafeteria. Sign the pledge to be Stigma Free and post your pledge to board.
11 a.m.: Prayer for Mental Illness. Chapel Service in Rowntree Theatre
Thursday, Oct. 8
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: "Throw Away Thursday." Outside the Cafeteria. Write down and then shred your negative thoughts.
6:00 p.m.: "Thoughtful Thursday." Room 129, Smith/Broyles Science. Discuss what happens at the BMC and enjoy a Positive Psychology "Savoring Exercise."
Friday, Oct. 9
11 a.m.- 1 p.m.: "Fortune Friday." Outside the cafeteria. Come by and grab a cookie with an encouraging quote.