The Catalyst: Stopping Stigmas with Mental Health Storytelling

Posted 05/16/2017

The Catalyst
Elise Glaser

Storytelling has always been a universal conveyance of human emotion. Be it a childhood story of the “Three Little Pigs “to something you read last week, stories shape each individual on Colorado College’s campus. Now, story-telling has taken a new form under the guidance of Caleigh Cassidy and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).

 

Cassidy first heard about mental health storytelling through NAMI in Colorado Springs. The initiative is essentially to help mental illness sufferers to develop a cohesive narrative about their mental health and share it with others. “I learned in my abnormal psych class that one of the best ways to destigmatize mental illness is sharing stories and to know people on a more human level before you know about their mental illness. It’s just a great way to build empathy and understand,” Cassidy explained. “You can hear statistics about how common depression is, but if you’ve never experienced it, then it’s hard to help a friend when they are in the depths of depression.”

One of the main goals of mental health storytelling is to destigmatize mental health issues. According to Heather Horton, the director of CC’s Wellness Resource Center, “Mental health is something that pertains to everyone. Everyone has mental health, and we move along a continuum, each of us, in terms of where we are at any given point in time. Students tend to think about mental health as either mental health or mental illness. It’s a false dichotomy. 50 percent of people at some point in their lifetime qualify for a diagnosis of mental illness.” Part of NAMI’s initiative is to show that mental health issues are not black and white, and that anyone can participate in the conversation about mental health. Horton added, “I would like to see the campus conversation broaden a bit in terms of really looking at [mental health] and saying it’s just a part of the human experience. The more openly we can talk about these issues, the better off we all are, both in terms of breaking stigma and also opening up the conversation for folks about how to manage those things and build skill around that.”

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