Panel examines stigma of mental illnesses


Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern psychology Prof. Robin Nusslock introduces the panel comprised of students speakers. The event, held Monday by NU Active Minds, featured NU students sharing their experiences with mental disorders and the stigma associated with it.

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

The Undergraduate Psychology Association and Northwestern Active Minds hosted Monday evening a panel discussion where students discussed their personal struggles with mental illness and related stigmas.

Representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities spoke to the audience of about 100 students in Harris Hall about available campus resources prior to the panel discussion with four students led by psychology Prof. Robin Nusslock.

The event’s goal to create a more open dialogue about mental illness on campus gained greater significance following Monday morning’s report from University spokesman Al Cubbage that Weinberg junior Alyssa Weaver’s death while abroad last week was a suicide.

“It’s really important to be there for each other,” CAPS executive director John Dunkle said. “We’re here to help in any way we can.”

Following the opening remarks from the University resources, Nusslock talked about the prevalence of mental illness and the impact stigma has on those suffering mental illness. He then opened the floor to the panel, which included Weinberg junior Emily Morimoto and Weinberg seniors Miriam Mogilevsky, Eric Larson and Katie Eilers.

Each member of the panel first addressed their own experience with mental illness, explaining their own struggle and treatment with mental illness before addressing the stigma mental illness had introduced in their lives. The panelists experienced a large range of mental illnesses, including bipolar II disorder, anorexia nervosa, chronic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“It’s rare to hear such detailed and honest accounts about such a variety of mental illnesses,” said Active Minds co-president Katie Sanford, a Weinberg senior.

Sanford said the event was also important because it gave students from the Northwestern community the opportunity to ask questions. The panel fielded questions from the audience on a range of sensitive topics, from how they think the stigma of mental illness will affect them in the professional world to how effective University resources like CAPS are. While several students said they had positive experiences with CAPS and SSD, others said CAPS did not have sufficient resources to help them.

“I slipped through the cracks,” said Mogilevsky, who explained CAPS did not follow up with her sufficiently after she used her 12 free sessions while struggling with depression at the end of her freshman year.

The question-and-answer portion allowed the panelists to also spread a message of encouragement and solidarity to the Northwestern community.

“Just know there are people out there who are accepting,” said Eilers when speaking about her experience interning at a law firm this summer.

Following the panel discussion, students from Active Minds offered to direct attendees to different University resources and encouraged attendees to support their goal to use the Associated Student Government 10K Initiative to develop an Essential NU about mental health resources.

Following the event, many in the audience responded positively to the open and honest nature of the panelists. Communication junior Cory Slowik was impacted by mental illness.

“I spent years not getting a diagnosis,” Slowik said. “I wish something like this happened my freshman year.”