Week of events fight the stigma of mental illness

DeKALB –The Northern Illinois University Say It Out Loud campaign has announced fall
programming to promote mental health literacyand create safe space for dialogues about
mental health issues.

Among the offerings are a Power Point presentation to facilitate discussions about mental health in the classroom and a number of free events during the Say It Out Loud Mental Health Awareness week, Sept. 17-21.

Led by Drs. Charlie E. Myers and Toni R. Tollerud of the Counseling Program, the campaign aims to lower the stigma of mental illness by promoting a healthy dialogue and creating a safe space for community members to share stories and ask questions. In May, the launch of the NIU Say It Out Loud Mental Health Website offered a reliable source for information about mental illnesses, treatment and support resources, and suggestions for discussing mental health concerns with friends, family and in the classroom.

Fall programming kicked off with a Mental Health First Aid training for 40 members of the NIU community. Trainers from Linden Oaks hospital taught participants how a layperson could assist in a mental health emergency, such as a suicidal person, someone under the influence of a substance or someone suffering from anxiety attacks.

“The mental health first aid training was great reinforcing topics my master’s program has emphasized," said Pierre H. Michiels, a student studying rehabilitation counseling. "It provided supplementary information for quick acting in crisis situations.”

It is believed that mental illness strikes 20 percent of the US population regardless of age, race, or socio-economic class. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at any given time in Illinois, 700,000 adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness. Yet 70 to 90 percent of people with serious mental illness can experience a significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in the quality of life if they are diagnosed and treated early. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Early identification and treatment are critical to allowing a person to live a healthy and fulfilling life, yet only 25 percent of college-age students believe one can recover from a mental illness. The Say It Out Loud campaign debunks common misconceptions, prioritizes early identification and provides strategies to navigate the health care system.

A series of free events is planned on campus for Mental Health Awareness Week, including "Nothing's Wrong, I'm Fine: Addressing the Stigma of Mental Illness," a blend of drama, facts and discussion on how to talk about mental illness; a free screening of the film "Canvas," followed by discussion; and a mental illness-themed open mic night. In addition, an art show related to the campaign will be featured in the Holmes Student Center art gallery, and volunteers will be present in the MLK Commons from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily with literature and information.

For more information, email

Loading more