Advocating For Mental Health Awareness At UNO

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Anxiety and depression are things we all have to deal with at one time or another but it appears to have a large impact on young adults.

That's why students at UNO campus formed a new advocacy and support group. It is aimed at letting those sufferers know that they are not alone.

They are not easy topics to discuss. Most of us keep our feelings and problems bottled up inside and that can lead to larger issues.

Jennifer Alquicira says the lines of communication are now open. The UNO student is part of the campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She says college students sometimes find it difficult to ask for help.

“No one wants to talk about this because they find it shameful, they find it scary. No one is so brave enough to speak about their emotions because it's just not natural for them,” she said. “Mental health impacts everyone at any age of their life, especially here in college, in high school even later in life it still impact them in some way. I had depression and anxiety especially when going through my first two years of college, it really worried me that there was nothing here on campus that would help other than going to the counseling center.”

That's why the campus chapter is so important.

Amy Weaver is also part of the campus chapter. She says sharing experiences can help other students realize they are not alone.

“There's freedom in being vulnerable, that's something that I find very positive and very strength based,” she said. “If I could inspire someone else to get the help that they need through just opening up with just my own experiences then that was worth it for me.”

“If students talk about their issues as if it was physical, then they'd realize that this is important and it needs to be talked about,” Alquicira said.

Jennifer and Amy both say college is a difficult time and constant changes impact students.

The group gets its message out through campus events and social media with the goal of taking mental health concerns out of the shadows and letting students know there is someone there willing to listen and to help.

“I was pretty shy,” Alquicira said. “I was scared and at that time, I was in denial of my depression but now that I'm three years into college, I've become more confident. I'm not ashamed of my past.”

Organizers say they want to continue working with organizations outside campus life to help provide support. There are also plans to eventually reach out to area high schools to form more groups that are age specific.