In order to spread the knowledge of mental illness throughout campus, the Bellevue College psychology club brought in two spokespeople from the National Alliance of Mental Illness to share their illnesses, treatments and coping skills. All of this was done in an attempt to “clear the stigma of mental illness as well as gain awareness among students so they have more knowledge about mental illness and people with mental illness and what they should do to help them,” said Tam Nguyen, president of the psychology club.
In front of more than 30 students eager to learn about bipolar disorder and dissociative identity disorder, two women took the microphone and introduced themselves as Sandra and Carolyn. Both women have suffered from mental illnesses, Sandra from dissociative identity disorder and Carolyn from bipolar disorder. As they introduced themselves they also introduced NAMI and its goals to “break the stigma of mental illness and to provide support and education to families as well the people suffering from the mental illnesses,” as Carolyn said.
Their presentation covered the dark days, acceptance, treatment, coping skills and hopes and dreams of the people suffering from mental illnesses through video clips of people who have sought support and help from NAMI.
The videos contained testimonials from patients with many mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. After each short video, the women would come up and share their own stories. With each bit of information the audience could develop a fuller picture of what specific mental illness was brought into their lives and how they’ve learned to live with their illnesses.
The women shared the stories of their hardships and their attempts at overcoming the drawbacks of their mental illnesses. they spoke of how they came to accept their illness and how NAMI helped , as it did for Carolyn, to become more open about illnesess. Following acceptance, the women spoke of their treatments and how medication has changed over the years and how beneficial having psychologists could be. The women talked about the benefits of exercise as a coping skill as well as the support of family and friends and altered lifestyles.
Carolyn commented on how few psychiatric care facilities there are in Washington state stating that it is “50th in the nation in terms of psychiatric hospital beds.”