By Taylor Hurst
Mental illness affects each and every person in our world whether it is directly, through personal experience, or indirectly, through friends and family. No matter where you stand in your experience with mental illness, I can assure you that you are not alone. You are not alone as a survivor and you are not alone as a supporter. There is an arsenal of support behind you, but in many cases, people don’t realize it. It can be easy to see yourself as a lone soldier in a battlefield of stress, school work, and mental illness. However, I encourage you to stop, take a breath, look around you, and recognize how many resources are available to you whether you are a survivor, supporter, or both. Are you having difficulty identifying support? If so, do not worry. You are not alone. Many people are unaware of the resources on campus and I’m writing this article to change that perception and allow you to recognize the endless support that surrounds you. Let’s begin with a resource that I believe is truly overlooked: University Health Services, also known as UHS for short. The no-cost mental health services at UHS include individual, couple/partner, group counseling, campus-based programming, stress management, and psychiatry services. They also offer crisis services, which are available 24/7. Getting started is as smooth as freshly scooped Babcock ice cream. You can simply schedule an Access Appointment to collaboratively determine your needs and connect you to the best resources. This can be done by calling the MHS reception desk or logging into MyUHS to schedule an appointment. From there, you will have a short 15-20 minute phone screening with an Access Specialist who will listen to your concerns, ask you questions, and connect you with the best resources on and off campus. That’s it. You don’t need to spend hours researching their services or determining which services are best for you. The Access Specialist is there to do that and realizes that opening up can be difficult, and their mission is to make the process as easy as possible for you. A few of my favorite programs offered by UHS are Let’s Talk, SilverCloud, and Let’s Yoga, just to name a few (which are all FREE, by the way). You can learn more by accessing their website at https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/mental-health/. Another great resource is a hub of sorts for mental illness services, and they are the student organizations on campus! There are a plethora of mental health services offered by students, for students. I’ll describe a few useful organizations, but there are many others who are more than willing to support you in your mental health journey. The first, and my personal, non-biased favorite, is NAMI-UW. NAMI stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to helping Americans affected by mental illness through education, advocacy, and support. A UW-Madison chapter of NAMI is located in the Student Activity Center (SAC) and offers numerous support groups and resources. Another great student organization is BadgerSPILL, which stands for Supporting Peers in Laidback Listening. BadgerSPILL is a peer-to-peer support network of and for UW-Madison students. You can write in online to “spill” or vent privately about whatever you are going through to get unbiased feedback, empathy, and resources from other students who have dealt with similar situations. Both parties are anonymous to one another and you will get multiple responses within 48 hours. The last resource that I will touch on is Ask.Listen.Save. Ask.Listen.Save. is a student org that aims to prevent suicide by reducing the stigma of mental illness. Through educating the student body, they aim to increase the awareness of mental illness and create a safe environment in which students know they are not alone and can feel free to ask for help. They have an office in the SAC which has a ton of amazing handouts and they often have Dogs on Call so it’s worth a look! Keep in mind that these are just three of the many student organizations on campus that are more than willing to help and I suggest getting involved to receive aid and build a strong support system. This last resource is a sacred one, and it’s a very well hidden secret. Are you sure that you’re ready to know it? I certainly hope so because here it is…the most valuable resource is…YOURSELF! The biggest form of support in your life should come from yourself! I encourage you to practice self-care and self-love in every situation you find yourself in. Treat yourself as your true best friend. Don’t tell yourself things that you would never tell your best friend. Give yourself support and comfort in times of need. Celebrate your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself. Love yourself! It may take a lot of practice and the process may be difficult, but it is possible. You have the strength within you to treat yourself as your true best friend. You are not alone on the UW Madison campus. You have the support of University Health Services, the support of numerous student organizations, the support of those around you, and most importantly, the support from your true best friend – yourself! I encourage you to stop, take a breath, look around you, and recognize how many resources are available to you as a survivor, supporter, or both. You are not alone on the UW Madison campus, I promise.