Panel provides insight on mental illness, stigma

A panel discussion was held by the Interfraternity Council and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Monday to spread awareness on mental illness issues and stigma.
The panel consisted of a variety of professionals including Jack Halli, Peter Ostrander, Emily Burkhart, Missi Berquist and Dr. Matthew Sipple.
The panel started the discussion by identifying each of their own mental illnesses or their associations with mental illnesses, such as family members who suffer.
The panel discussed a variety of topics including stigma, stereotypes, their own experiences with stigma, what can be done about stigma and the education of mental illness.
Hayley Woebse, a sophomore undecided major, said that she thought a discussion like this was necessary.
“The topic of mental illness is really important to talk about,” she said. “I do not think many people think about the way that they may be stigmatizing mental illness every day.”
Panelists spoke about where they see mental illness being stigmatized in their lives. Burkhart said that she sees stigma within her child’s school. She spoke about parents not wanting their children to interact with her because of her mental illness.
Ostrander spoke on the definition of stigma to him. He spoke about an experience he had in his life where he was speaking to a person with a physical disability. He said that he was afraid of the reaction he would receive after telling this person of his mental illness because of the stigma that is associated with it.
Berquist spoke on the major factors that influence stigma. She said that stigma is in the language that people use every day. She used examples of words such as “psycho” and “crazy” to show how individuals stigmatize mental illness within everyday conversation.
Halli talked about the role that social media plays in stigma. He said that many people only talk about the cases of mental illness that are negative.
“We never talk about the successful people who have mental illnesses,” he said.
Berquist said that education is the start of ending stigma. She said that people are being diagnosed with mental illnesses at younger ages, but students are not taught about these illnesses soon enough.
She also said that speaking openly about mental illness would stop the stigma.
“I think it is your generation that is going to keep this conversation going,” Berquist said.
The panel discussion ended with audience questions, which gave the panelists an opportunity to speak to the audience on a personal level regarding their struggles.
According to students involved in Greek Life on campus, this event was promoted by the Greek Ball, which raises awareness for a local organization. It also donates funds to the organization that is promoted.

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