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Mental Health Alliance RSO aims to eliminate stigma

Colorado junior and Mental Health Alliance President Katrina Gallego speaks to students interested in joining the student organization on Sept. 20 in the Bovee University Center.

The Mental Health Alliance are working to erase the negative stigma that surrounds mental illnesses at Central Michigan University. 

The group plans to host events this year to increase awareness and knowledge of mental health issues at CMU.

 “Where hate comes from is not knowing, (students) don’t understand, they don’t know any different,” said Colorado junior and MHA President Katrina Gallego.

In October 2017, Gallego enlisted help from her fellow Health Professions Residential College members to make the group an official Registered Student Organization.

“A lot of what we’ve done is try to get people to join the E-board,” Gallego said.

With Gallego as president, Saint Clair Shores junior Elizabeth Oxie as Treasurer, Midland junior Alexes Ouderkirk as vice president, and recreation, parks and leisure services administration faculty member Leann Wheeler as the academic adviser, the RSO found its footing and became official. 

Mental Health Alliance had its first official meeting in March 2018. The organization participated in tabling events and held general meetings during the spring semester.

The organization had its first meeting of the 2018-19 school year on Thursday, Sept. 20, where members discussed the organization's plans and how to officially join.

Gallego said each meeting is a bit different, depending on whether there is a guest speaker, but every month has a theme the meeting goes along with. 

Gallego plans to have MHA team up with other RSOs, the counseling center and local businesses.

Oxie said they plan to do a large amount of fundraising throughout the year, possibly including t-shirts, social events, food, and a benefit concert. 

Mental Health Alliance will volunteer at the Mental Health Awareness Conference at 12-4 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Sarah and David Opperman Auditorium in Charles V. Park Library.

Students who have a passion for spreading awareness about mental health and educating others are encouraged to join the organization. 

Grand rapids sophomore Shannon Bennett said she and her roommate have experience with mental illnesses themselves or in their families that many people don't understand.

“(People) think you are just bored, lazy, or don’t care, when really sometimes you care so much you can’t function,” Bennett said.

To become a member, one must attend five meetings or social events each semester and pay dues of $20 for the whole year or $15 per semester. Members will receive a certificate at the end of the year. 

People who are interested in joining Mental Health Alliance are encouraged to attend a meeting or reach out to Gallego via OrgSync

The group meets bi-weekly at 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The next meeting will be Oct. 4 in Moore Hall Room 112. 

“I hope that there is actually a presence on campus,” Oxie said. “We have a mission and want to raise awareness.”