‘Say It Out Loud’ team plans fall programming

Linden Oaks trainer Barry Groesch shows NIU employee Debra Miller a technique for keeping an intoxicated victim safe from harm.
Linden Oaks trainer Barry Groesch shows NIU employee Debra Miller a technique for keeping an intoxicated victim safe from harm.

Following through on promises made in the spring, the NIU Say It Out Loud campaign has announced fall programming that will promote mental health literacy in the NIU community and create safe space for dialogues about mental health issues.

Among the offerings are a prepared Power Point presentation that can be used 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, scheduled Monday, Sept. 17, through Friday, Sept. 21.

Faculty are encouraged to contact the campaign staff to book a presentation in their classroom this fall and encourage students to attend one or more of the events.

On the schedule of free and open-to-the-public events:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m., Carl Sandburg Auditorium: “Nothing’s Wrong, I’m Fine: Addressing the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Using a creative mix of dramatic re-enactments, presentation of the facts and audience discussion/participation, members of the Alexian Brothers Parish Services, a division of Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health System, will perform a 90-minute presentation on mental health and how to talk about it with both friends and strangers.
  • Thursday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m., DuSable Hall 204: Film Showing and Discussion: “Canvas.” Professors Charlie E. Myers and Toni R. Tollerud of the NIU Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education will facilitate a showing and discussion of the heartfelt and honest story of a family living with a mother’s relapse into schizophrenia. Starring Joe Pantoliano (“Fight Club,” “Sopranos”) and Marcia Gay Harden (“First Wives Club,” “Meet Joe Black”).
  • Friday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Diversions Lounge (Holmes Student Center): SAY IT OUT LOUD Open Mic Night. The NIU community is invited to share music, poetry and personal stories related to mental health issues. Performances by the Awakenings Project of Elgin will be featured through the night. Hosted by Joel Filmore. Sign-up begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 16, through Friday, Sept. 21. HSC Art Gallery: SAY IT OUT LOUD Art Show. Art from the Awakenings Project of Elgin.
  • Monday, Sept. 17, through Friday, Sept. 21, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., MLK Commons. SAY IT OUT LOUD  table. SIOL volunteers will host a table with SIOL literature and opportunities for conversation.

The Say It Out Loud campaign came to the NIU campus as the result of a grant from the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership.

Charlie Myers and Toni Tollerud
Charlie Myers and Toni Tollerud

Led by Myers and Tollerud, 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 the university and community 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.

Last week, fall programming kicked off with a mental health first aid training for 40 members of the NIU community.

In this two-day, nationally recognized certification course, trainers from Linden Oaks hospital taught participants how a layperson could assist in the event of a mental health emergency. Topics covered included persons who were suicidal, under the influence of a substance, or suffering from anxiety attacks.

In addition to laypeople, students and staff with backgrounds in counseling say they gained something from the experience.

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

Debra A. Miller, student success specialist, agreed. “The mental health first aid training was a valuable review and refresher,” she said.

Departments and organizations interested in hosting a training session should contact grant staff at siol.niu@gmail.com.

‘Say It Out Loud’ logoIt is believed that mental illness strikes 20 percent of the U.S. population regardless of age, race or socio-economic class and, at any given time in Illinois, 700,000 adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.

An estimated 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; only 25 percent of college age students believe one can recover from a mental illness, however.

Say It Out Loud grants seek to lower the stigma of mental illness by educating the public and providing a safe space for the community to hold a dialogue about their questions and experiences. Through meaningful conversations where myths can be dispelled and assumptions tested, the campaign debunks common misconceptions that lead to stigma, prioritizes early identification and provides strategies to navigate the health care system.

To help in that effort, campaign staff have created an original 45-minute Power Point presentation designed for the classroom.

Offered free to the NIU community, it comes complete with visually impactful information and instructions on how to facilitate discussions, faculty members are encouraged to either use the presentation themselves or invite a Say It Out Loud campaign volunteer to present it for them.

Faculty members also are encouraged to create assignments that show a concern for and acceptance of mental health dialogues.

For more information about Say It Out Loud programming, to set up a presentation for your classroom, how to help with the campaign or to schedule a mental health first aid training for your department or community group, contact Elisa Woodruff at siol.niu@gmail.com.

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