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Not content to wait for help, Utah State students launch a mental health club

By Jessica Dryden
Nov. 3, 2016

In the wake of a student government declaration of a “mental health crisis,” at Utah State University, some Aggies are working to launch a National Alliance on Mental Illness club on campus.

Once the club is in place, likely by the end of this year, NAMI state organizations will train students to lead peer support groups. Those sorts of resources, organizers said, could help combat the waitlists students face for on-campus mental health care.

NAMI is the nation’s largest mental health organization, and has had a presence at Utah State University in the past. But Ty Aller, a NAMI USU outreach board member, said it’s not uncommon for university clubs to lose membership with students constantly graduating and moving.

“I believe that NAMI USU suffered a loss due to just this,” Aller said in an e-mail, “students being students.”

Aller is currently working with the organization’s Cache Valley affiliate to determine ways to minimize member loss in the future, ensuring the club stays equally active from year to year.

Aller said the first steps in bringing NAMI back to Utah State include recruiting students, establishing a presidency and holding events to raise awareness about the club.

“The students involved in leadership in NAMI will be directly connected with mental health providers in our community, which is a great experience for any student wanting to go into the mental health field after graduation,” Aller said.

Aller is optimistic NAMI will create a culture on campus that is more sensitive toward those with mental illness.

“Additionally, we will be providing an opportunity to foster a community on campus that is supportive of those with mental health issues," Aller said. "NAMI is founded on advocacy and I think having this type of voice on campus for students can really create more support for our students."

Sophomore Annalise Leavitt agreed. “There are a lot of kids that are suffering from depression on campus,” Leavitt said. “There’s been suicides. If it can raise awareness and maybe help kids who do have a mental illness know they can get help if they need it, I think it’s a good idea.”

Aller is confident NAMI will be successful in finding a permanent home on campus.

“It’ll take time to encourage students’ involvement and to keep their involvement,” Aller said. “This looks different from year to year, but I am confident we will get it started back up and running well.”

The club-to-be hopes to begin support groups come spring.

Ashley Waddoups, the school’s student body president, whose government spearheaded the mental health crisis declaration, said she is supportive of NAMI reappearing this year.

“My answer is an unequivocal yes,” Waddoups said. “From what I've seen and heard, NAMI is an incredible organization.”