NAMI Cats provide mental health discussion, services

Lifestyle Reporter
NAMI Cats advisers Joseph Meyer and Lucia Summers pose alongside vice president Michael Johs, health information management junior, and president Danni Lopez-Rogina, anthropology senior, Feb. 12 at the LBJ Student Center.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI Cats for short, is on a mission to raise awareness across Texas State.

NAMI was formed in 1979 as a grassroots effort to provide support to individuals who have mental illnesses, said Danni Lopez-Rogina, anthropology senior and president of NAMI. Students and faculty advisors formed the Texas State branch of NAMI in the spring semester of 2013, she said.

Joseph Meyer, director of institutional research and staff adviser for NAMI Cats, said he hopes to let students know they should not be ashamed of having mental health issues.

“It is pretty common,” Meyer said. “But sometimes it is a little bit surprising because we do not talk about it much, so it gives the impression that it is less common than what it really is.”

Meyer said he has battled clinical depression and has a child who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His personal familiarity with mental illness led him to advise NAMI Cats.

“My parenting experiences, more than anything else, have had a pretty profound impact on how I see the world and how important I think it is to talk more freely and openly about mental health issues,” Meyer said. “About twenty-five percent of people will experience a diagnosable mental illness in a given year.”

Michael Johs, health information management junior and vice president of NAMI, said the camaraderie the organization provides is a reason people feel comfortable opening up.

“We have a good group of people that understand,” Johs said. “We just want people to know that there are resources available as well as our group of people.”

NAMI Cats meets biweekly on Thursdays at 5 p.m.

Lopez-Rogina said forum topics can include issues ranging from post-traumatic stress to mental breakdowns.

Lopez-Rogina said she is familiar with the effects of mental illness. She has learned to relate to others dealing with similar struggles through her own experiences with depression.

“I have dealt with my own issues,” Lopez-Rogina said. “I have had depression/anxiety since the fourth grade. I can remember that moment of realizing something was not right.”

Lopez-Rogina said losing family members to mental illness inspired her to get involved.

“I became aware that there is always people going through things and we do not even think about it,” Lopez-Rogina said. “We do not notice until they are gone. That is what had led me to be passionate about it.”

Lucia Summers, assistant professor of criminal justice and staff adviser for NAMI, used her experience working in psychiatric hospitals to relay a message of hope.

Summers said she was diagnosed years ago with chronic depression and actively combats the stigma associated with mental illness.

“With NAMI Cats, we try to fight stigma and provide support for each other,” Summers said. “We are looking at volunteer opportunities within mental health, going to local psychiatric hospitals and talking with people. That is something where we are in a position to make a special contribution.”