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Group gives support

Lawrence Wanucha, Vice President of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at the University, was a college freshman in the 70s when he started having problems.

He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and was able to get help for it. Though it has been a lifelong process, he has been able to learn coping and adapting skills that now allow him to hold a job and a board position for NAMI of Greater Toledo, among other things.

“I’ve come full circle,” Wanucha said. “I was diagnosed with a mental illness, I got help and now I’m helping others get help.”

NAMI exists on many levels. NAMI has existed for more than 20 years at the national level. At this level, NAMI is an advocate with Congress and the President. At the state and local levels, NAMI is an advocate within communities and different state organizations and agencies.

Carla Abreu-Ellis, a doctoral student, started the University’s chapter of NAMI last spring. She saw a need for this type of group to be present on campus, and organized it.

The group’s purpose is to provide coping and adapting skills for dealing with mental illnesses, peer support and education about mental illnesses to those who need them. Even though it is a student organization at the University, it is open to helping students and members of the community.

“We’re open to anyone interested in supporting and advocating,” Wanucha said.

“We’re here as a resource,” added Douglas Koester, NAMI webmaster.

Jeff Moore, NAMI President, noted, “[Mental illnesses] are just another form of disability.”

NAMI’s focus is providing peer support and education because, “there are a lot of stigmas with mental illnesses,” said Wanucha. “Our goal is to knock some of that down.”

In order to break some of those stigmas, the group has many things planned for the next few years. They want to bring in a guest speaker to talk about mental illness, advocate for the University psychiatrist to be on campus more and they want to talk to students in residence halls and let them know help is available and where to get it. In addition, NAMI wants to have workshops for faculty, so that professors will know how to address and help students who have a mental illness.

“I hope to help the people who are having mental health issues,” Wanucha said. “Maybe then they won’t have to leave school to get help.”

“Lots of students don’t’ walk in with [a mental illness], but they walk out with one,” Koester said.

Although the focus of the group is on mental illnesses, you do not need to have a mental illness to be a part of it.

“We are a group of people, friends, family members and consumers, who know of someone with a mental illness,” Moore said.

NAMI will be having its first meeting tonight from 7-9 in Olscamp 121. It will be an opportunity for those who are interested to have free pizza, share experiences and utilize an open mic session to ask questions and voice concerns.

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