A “new NAMI” supports students’ mental health

The Augie National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is rebranding itself in order to further provide students with mental health resources.

Augie NAMI is a student-led campus club that supports student mental health through peer support and raises mental health awareness through education and advocacy. 

Junior Armaan Raheeja, president of NAMI, says the organization’s primary mission is to serve the students at school. 

“The goal of Augie NAMI is to make every individual feel like they belong [and] feel welcome, with no judgment,” Raheeja said. 

Junior Tatum Higgs, vice president of NAMI, is motivated by the importance of educating students on the resources available to them on campus, as those struggling with mental health can find it difficult to reach out and get help because they are unsure of who they can go to.

“We want to definitely put a greater emphasis on the idea of education on mental illness. There’s these different things and different tools that people can have and being able to share that with other students is important,” Higgs said. 

The pandemic negatively impacted NAMI’s attendance and ability to share mental health resources. Fewer students attended sessions for the group, and NAMI was not able to distribute resources to students without them being present.

Junior Briana Kuntsman, Augie NAMI communications liaison, said there was a need for NAMI during the pandemic, and without that resource, students were struggling. 

“We went from kind of being bigger and more out there to coloring sessions, and it was a bit more relaxed, and then Nami kind of disappeared,” Kuntsman said. “With the disappearance, we saw people not knowing where to go and the counseling services weren’t having as many places to recommend students to go.”

To address the lack of awareness, NAMI is focusing on getting their name out to students in various ways, such as through an email list, the student bulletin, word of mouth and the group’s growing social media presence. 

At this time, NAMI’s goal is to let students know they are there to be supported, and that everything that is shared is completely confidential.

“I’m concerned some people might not be comfortable enough to share. So we’re really working on that just to make it easier because it’s hard to share your story. It can be traumatic for people,” Raheeja said.

According to Higgs, NAMI executive members acknowledge that they are not licensed therapists. However, Higgs says they are there to help in any way they can. This includes meetings with NAMI and peer support.

“We haven’t been consulting with anybody professionally like that, but through the overall NAMI organization, they do have training that we can go through to help us learn how to deal with those kinds of things,” Higgs said. 

The biggest takeaway from NAMI’s rebranding, according to Kuntsman, is that NAMI is another resource at Augustana to help when students are struggling. 

“We want [NAMI] to be an option that students are more aware of so that when they need somewhere to go, there isn’t a question as to where it could be. People just know Nami is somewhere safe and somewhere that they can go and feel appreciated and supported,” Kuntsman said. 

Augie NAMI meets on Mondays in Olin 201 at 6:00pm. More information can be found @augie_nami on Instagram or by emailing [email protected].

If interested in joining Augie NAMI, go to the Augie NAMI instagram page and fill out the Augie NAMI new member form.