An on-campus affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is in the works at Quinnipiac, thanks to junior transfer and marketing major, Peter Chlebogiannis and his team.
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization according to nami.org. There are hundreds local NAMI affiliates in states across the nation, as well as student- run and student- led organizations on college campuses, NAMI on Campus.
These on campus affiliates raise mental awareness with fairs and other events, educate campuses with presentations, speakers and panels, advocate for improving mental health services on campus and support peers with NAMI programs, according to nami.org.
Chlebogiannis, the president of the club, established a NAMI on-campus branch at his previous college, Westchester Community College. That inspired him to do the same at Quinnipiac when he transferred.
“At community college, there’s a lot of people who are dealing with complicated life circumstances, not that those people aren’t here but there’s a higher proportion of people there who really needed to talk about very serious things in their life,” Chlebogiannis said. “That’s what NAMI kind of grew out of and that’s what is became and then over time it kind of shifted as an on campus club to a student advocacy group.”
As far as starting the NAMI branch at Quinnipiac, Ian Ross, junior public relations major and Publicity Chair of NAMI said the focus now is spreading word and establishing themselves as an organization.
“We’re kind of at square one and have to build up our club base and make sure that the people who are engaging with us are serious about engaging with us instead just showing interest and then not dedicating time to the club,” Ross said.
Chlebogiannis said most of the work the team is doing is learning about the Quinnipiac student body’s needs as far as mental health is concerned.
“Coming into a new environment, you never know the audience you’re going to be dealing with,” Chlebogiannis said. “You never really know until you’ve been there awhile what kind of following, what kind of an interest you’re going to attract at all.”
Along with putting out flyers, NAMI officers have been working closely with Kerry Patton, Director of Counseling Services, who will serve as the club’s advisor.
Chlebogiannis and his team have also been in contact with the psychology club on campus and the psychology honors program, as well as some graduate students who run the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They have focused most of their advertising towards deans, heads of departments and directors and plan to soon build a student base.
“We have a few lists too of interested members who said they would be interested,” Ross said. “So we’re gonna get that email list together and figure out if everyone on that list is 100 percent interested.”
Being an on campus affiliate of NAMI, this branch has more freedom to make the content and events more personalized for Quinnipiac students rather than following the same agenda as a state affiliate.
“NAMI has very strict guidelines for what its employees can and cannot say because they don’t want to get bad publicity. With NAMI on Campus, we hold the same ethical obligation to serve our community well and not circulate any bad messages, but as students, we have more control over what we think is best for the student body,” Chlebogiannis said. “We’re not here to serve NAMI or even the student government or the college administration. Our only job is to serve students here…because of NAMI, we have the power to be completely autonomous.”
Chlebogiannis said the people who are struggling are the ones who want to help the most, and he is looking for people who are passionate about ending the stigmas people are dealing with everyday all around us.
“As an organization, we feed off of, we thrive, we need that 20 percent that are willing to get up out of their room and come to a meeting,” Chlebogiannis said. “Sacrifice a weekend to volunteer at a disability shelter… a day to commit to passing out things or doing things that will help fellow QU students feel better.”
Chlebogiannis stressed that even with 20 or 30 people, NAMI at Quinnipiac could really make a difference.
“We are here purely in a humanitarian affect,” Chlebogiannis said. “We couldn’t possibly gain anything monetarily or even personally from this other than helping people.”