NAMI advocates self-care

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Savannah Carpenter, junior, is the head of the NAMI club. Jacky Chen | The Falcon

Hailey Nelson

Broadening mental health perspectives

The makings of success are often simplified into a combination of getting enough sleep, work, social interaction, food, and personal time, not necessarily in that order.
For college students everywhere, navigating those expectations while still getting the most out of their time at school can be a challenge.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness, or NAMI, is an advocate for a healthy balance of all these avenues in any person’s life. Seattle Pacific University’s chapter of NAMI in particular wants to spread awareness of the ways students can maintain their mental health through personal practice.

“Everybody has a mental health story,” Savannah Carpenter, a psychology major and president of the SPU chapter, said. “Therefore, this is something relevant in all of our lives. It is something worth spending time engaging in.”

Carpenter described how, in times of strain, many start to fall behind in taking care of themselves. Being able to see personal behaviors before they become detrimental to your mental health is important.

“Mental health and mental illness are all part of this spectrum, and people being able to take care of themselves is really just what we’re trying to advocate for,” Carpenter said.
SPU’s chapter is dedicated to understanding mental health from multiple perspectives.
SPU navigates this through the Dickinson Fellowship.

The Dickinson Fellowship consists of a combination of about eight students, graduate and undergraduate, from three areas of study — nursing, psychology and theology — that come together for a variety of perspectives and approaches to mental health. Professors from the psychology and nursing department are also part of the NAMI presence at SPU.

They all meet every other Friday to share readings and information about mental health.
Cindy Ma, a sophomore, nursing major and treasurer of the group, explained how these gatherings generally work.

“We have these discussions with grad students to further our understanding of the greater concept of how we can advocate for those affected by mental illnesses,” she said.

“It’s an interprofessional collaboration.”

Each major contributes different ways to keep a healthy headspace. Self care includes practices from each major’s field of mastery.

According to Carpenter, one way to practice self care is to be able to find a place where you can stop and recognize how you are feeling.

Realizing you feel stressed, for example, can be the first step towards avoiding negative consequences of difficult situations.

The psychology major also recommended to find what gives you energy. If you are an extrovert, study with groups of people. If studying becomes overwhelming, take a break and give yourself time to refresh. If going for a walk, drawing or listening to music gives you motivation, do that.

Beyond staying motivated, there are also other important ways to upkeep your mental health. According to Carpenter, one of the most essential practices in positive mental help is also one of the most often overlooked: Sleep.

It seems to be something that a lot of students overlook the importance of, Carpenter explained, and students tend to demote its priority.

Overall, is it better to take care of yourself in habitual practices rather than allowing stress or anxiety to build into bigger problems. It is easy to forget to analyze one’s internal processes.

“Everybody has emotions. Everyone has their own ways of processing, their own outlets for being themselves, their own identities,” Carpenter said. “Self care and being able to cope with high stressors is really part of this whole chain of mental health.”
To continue keeping the idea of self care and mental health maintenance fresh in students’ minds, NAMI plans to host a number of events next quarter.

They held a movie night on Thursday, Feb. 28, for students to get to know the organization and start conversations about mental health, but would like to host more events in the future.

For May especially, since it is Mental Health Awareness Month, NAMI have a number of events in the making.

“We welcome you to come to these events,” said Ma. “We are working really hard to improve the amount of support and understanding surrounding mental illnesses, and we hope to come together in unison.”

For more information on the organization on a national scale, go to www.nami.org or talk to a NAMI chapter member on campus.