Student organization fights stigma of mental illness, disability

Mental health, stock photoA new student organization, the Mental Health and Disability Alliance, will hold its first event Thursday, a session on understanding epilepsy.

The group’s mission: “to cultivate collaborations between university and community with the purpose of reducing stigma and other barriers to mental health and disability.”

“A lot of literature suggests that people who have these conditions don’t seek help because they’re afraid of being stigmatized by the public,” said founder and president John Capua. “That’s what we want to try and break down.”

Capua, a first-year graduate student in the School of Public Health, wants to approach mental health and disability from a new perspective.

“We want a broad perspective on what mental health is. We don’t want just a medical or biological point of view on this issue, we want the humanities aspects, the social aspects, the cultural aspects,” Capua said.

Part of spreading the word and presenting multiple views on the issue will involve partnering with various UIC and community organizations to organize lectures, events, research agendas and community engagement.

“It’s very unique in terms of its membership,” he said. “Undergraduates, graduates, staff and professionals are working together.”

As part of Brain Injury Awareness Month, the group is collaborating with the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago and the Public Health Alliance Thursday for “Epilepsy 101.”

There will be two sessions in Lecture Center A6, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“It’s really important to discuss and open dialogue that it’s OK to have this mental health issue, it’s OK to have depression, it’s OK to have PTSD, it’s OK to have these conditions,” Capua said.

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