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Counseling faculty’s ‘Say It Out Loud’ site offers reliable mental health information, resources

June 1, 2012
Charlie E. Myers and Toni R. Tollerud

Charlie E. Myers and Toni R. Tollerud

NIU counseling faculty Charlie E. Myers and Toni R. Tollerud, along with department chair Barbara Johnson, have launched the NIU Say It Out Loud Mental Health website.

Funded by a “Say It Out Loud” grant from the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership, the website is meant to provide reliable information to NIU and the surrounding DeKalb community about mental health, how to talk about mental illness, and how to ask for help.

The “Say It Out Loud” campaign has been in existence since 2008 and the grant is awarded to 10 Illinois communities each year.

It 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. 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.

Most importantly, mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.

The grant seeks 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.

‘Say It Out Loud’ logoSub-links on the NIU website include information on common mental illnesses, where to get help in the community, how to help someone who is in crisis and testimonials from real people in the community who have a mental health diagnosis. In addition, there is a section devoted to giving guidance to faculty on how to address mental health in the classroom and how to help students who might need mental health assistance.

The website is a part of a three-tiered campaign, overseen by Myers and Tollerud, to bring mental health education to the community. Development of the website is the first step.

Development of presentations that can be brought into classrooms, businesses and community organizations will come in the summer, and a “Say It Out Loud” mental health awareness week will follow in the fall. The week will include a discussion panel and keynote speaker, an art show at the Holmes Student Center art gallery from Sunday, Sept. 16, through Friday, Sept. 21, a film showing and an open mic night Friday, Sept. 21, at the Diversions Lounge.

Of particular note to the community are the offering of Mental Health First Aid trainings: a nationally recognized, three-year certification that teaches laymen how to assist in the event of a mental health crisis. Registration for the first training, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 16, Friday, Aug. 17, is available by contacting Elisa Woodruff at [email protected].

For more information about the website, Say It Out Loud programming and how to help with the campaign, contact Woodruff at [email protected].