New group on campus aims to create safe space for mental health discussion

Marina Vences

The National Alliance on Mental Illness center in Austin has approved a UT-only branch of NAMI to work with UT students to prevent suicide.

NAMI meets twice a month in the Student Services Building and aims to create a place for people to talk about the effects and treatment of mental health and what to do when someone is suffering. The group hopes to change the conversation around mental illness to create an open dialogue with friends, family and sufferers, according to Megan Alvarado, president of NAMI On Campus.

Alvarado, a health promotion junior, created the UT chapter after she transferred last semester and saw the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center had a cap on the number of personal therapy sessions that could be booked. 

“I found NAMI in Austin because I realized that it was free resources that were available to help me,” Alvarado said. “I realized that I could bring this to campus for other students like me and I just got started.”

History sophomore Crystal Guy, mental health advocacy and awareness chair for NAMI on campus, joined the group to focus on reducing the stigma around mental illness.

“We really wanted to have an organization where people could come to, to form a community and stop stigma against conditions,” Guy said.

Alvarado said the group’s goal is to positively impact their members’ lives by creating a platform for them to express their thoughts on mental health.

“In one word, vulnerability is going to end stigma,” Alvarado said. “It gets people to step out in solidarity and create an open discussion about how mental illness has impacted people’s lives and with it we can make positive effects on students’ lives.”

Psychology freshman Jacob Sick said he came to the meeting to find a group of people with common experiences and to find resources for people with mental health issues.

“I’m interested in having a support system on campus, and I figured I would find a lot of like-minded people here who have had mental illness in their lives or it has impacted them in some way,” Sick said. “I will definitely continue to attend meetings and be involved with this organization.”