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Mental Illness: The Elephant in the Room; Panel Discussion Tonight

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 6, 2010

“Feeling alone. Depression/PTSD. Eating disorder. Sadness. Fear throwing up constantly; I have no friends. Fight for your life.”

These are some of the messages written on Stiggy, a pink paper-constructed elephant on display in the entryway of Dimond Library during this, National Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 3-9).

A poster beside the elephant instructs people to share their feelings on mental illness.

Built by students in the master’s in social work program, Stiggy exemplifies the “elephant in the room” analogy that is used with subjects people avoid discussing. Mental illness often tops the list.

Students, faculty and staff have been stopping by and writing things about being newly diagnosed with various mental illnesses, feeling alone, and the importance of taking care of each other.

“Stiggy, the elephant in the room, has proven to be a great way to bring people together to talk about mental illness,” says Sharon Murphy, assistant professor, social work department. “It seems that we need to find more innovative and creative methods for breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  We hope that Stiggy's message is heard in all corners of the campus.”

Grad student Jennifer Comeau came up with the idea during class when they were talking about finding ways to attract attention to the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Plan to attend today’s panel discussion on mental illness from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the MUB Theater II. The panel includes David Andre and Kim Wedel of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-N.H. In Our Own Voice; Joan Bishop and Robin Moses-Harney from NAMI-N.H. Life Interrupted; and  David Cross, director of the UNH Counseling Center.

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