By Kamille Johnson

The EKU chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosted guest speakers Russell Hollis and Cheryl Anness in the Dick Mayo Allen Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 to speak to students about eliminating the stigma of mental illness.

Shelby Smith, president of EKU NAMI, said that NAMI is about “community outreach and reducing stigma against mental illness.”

Smith also talked about why she wanted to bring NAMI back to EKU.

“I see a need for it on campus… you know the counseling center does a lot of really awesome outreach;,” Smith said. “They have a lot of different groups for EKU students, they offer a lot of services, but one of the things that I saw was missing is that peer support component.”

Anness and Hollis speak at different middle schools and high schools around the state trying to get their message across about mental illness. One thing that these advocates said they cannot stress enough is ending the stigma behind mental health. The stigma, Smith said, seem to be affecting those who have or might have mental illness to seek help.

“They are reluctant to seek help because of the stigmas, they throw around terms like crazy or unstable when that’s not the case at all,” Smith said.

The reason for these stigmas is the fact that people are not educated about mental health or mental illness when in reality, mental illness is a common thing to have. One in five are diagnosed with a mental illness whether it be anxiety, depression, OCD, among others.

Hollis shared his story of his life before and after he was diagnosed. He was a Kentucky Governor’s Scholar, played music, and struggled with depression. It was in college when he made an attempt on his life, leading him to drop out of school. After seeking help with his family by his side, Hollis received a schizophrenia diagnosis.

“By sharing these issues and by seeking treatment, people can have very fulfilling lives just like Russell, despite having a serious mental illness of schizophrenia,” Anness said. “Russell has a very happy and fulfilling life, and all of that is because he got treatment and receives treatment on a regular basis.”

Hollis talked about his desire to use his story to help others.

“I would like my story and the presentation to kind of remove the stigma of mental illness. It is a lot more common than what people think, and people with schizophrenia and other issues are still people, there is a humanity to it. I think people don’t quite understand that,” Hollis said.

To seek help from a professional, contact the EKU counseling center at www.counseling.eku.edu making-appointment, or join EKU NAMI. For more information on EKU NAMI contact Shelby Smith at shelby_smith404@mymail.eku.edu.