NAMI on campus adjusts support strategies during pandemic

NAMI president Gianna Pupino and vice president Morgan Fisher are both junior psychology majors. Photo by Emily McCarthy / The Jambar

By Emily McCarthy

The National Alliance on Mental Illness at Youngstown State University has been working behind the scenes since the start of the pandemic. Between the stress of being stuck inside with little in-person contact and COVID-19 related health fears, more people are reaching out for support when it’s increasingly challenging to do so.

Gianna Pupino, a junior psychology major, is the president of NAMI. This is her second year as president of the organization and she joined NAMI as a freshman. Since the start of the pandemic, she said there are some notable differences in community participation.

“I definitely noticed more people reaching out for help during the pandemic because they didn’t know what to do,” she said. “We have around 10 people join a meeting on Zoom. In person, we had more.”

Aside from in-person meetings, NAMI also held several different activities such as walks and support tables. Since almost everything was moved online, Pupino said these types of things have been hard to do.

“We can’t really meet in person, especially when [the pandemic] first started. We used to have all of our meetings in person, we used to have activities that we’d do, but with everything going on, everything is on Zoom,” Pupino said. 

NAMI continues to help students through its support and Zoom meetings. Participants discuss topics unique to the pandemic, such as “how to handle it when someone doesn’t believe COVID is real.” Self-care is central to NAMI’s mission, especially during stressful or traumatic events.

Morgan Fisher, the vice president of NAMI, is a junior psychology major. She aspires to be a clinical mental health counselor and was able to become a certified mental health aid through the organization. She said the events in the past year make the focus on mental health even more important.

NAMI is about fighting to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness and encouraging individuals to share their own experience and plight with mental health, perhaps inspiring others and reminding them they are not alone. It is especially important given the circumstances of this past year,” she said. “I want to encourage individuals who are struggling to talk to a trusted person, or reach out to Counseling Services here at YSU. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”

Pupino wants students to know it is important to take care of their mental health, and NAMI is available for assistance and support. Students can contact the group through its Twitter and Instagram pages or at Pupino’s student email.