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By Imani Brown
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Camden County College’s new local chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness held its first official meeting Nov. 21 in the Community Center Room of the Connector Building.

NAMI chapter founder and president Raven Stein-Lucente and her faculty adviser, addictions counselor professor Leroy Stanford, recruited a group of students who were willing to address the stigma against mental illness and offer help to those who are dealing with it. Stein-Lucente said the goals of the meeting were “to get the club organized and get everybody on the same page as to what our purpose is and how we’re going to go about it.”

The meeting covered topics from expressing what each member wanted to accomplish to brainstorming ways to bring awareness. About 10 people attended. The attendees became official members as they took part in creating the constitution for the club.

In addition, some attendees were appointed to leadership roles on the club. They included Timothy Elmer as vice president, Sara Wickizer as secretary, Terralyn Hayes as assistant secretary, Cait Segear as treasurer/fundraising coordinator and Zeani Banks as social media/public relations coordinator.

Members expressed their hopes and expectations about what they wanted the club to do and their ideas about how to break the stigma of mental illness.

Segear suggested the club host an event to bring people together. “I think that it would be cool if we had people come to a certain area and have some sort of entertainment, then just talk about it,” she said.

Elmer, who is a member of the autism spectrum community, said he wanted to be more educated on mental illnesses so he can help those with the same special needs as his. “I don’t have much experience with mental illnesses … My friends have shown it somewhat. I didn’t know what to do in those situations,” he stated. “Luckily those situations worked out but for next time I would like to be more informed.”

Banks said she wants to reach people who have a hard time understanding mental illnesses. “By us getting out the information that this is a problem, people would understand and we can live in a better community,” she stated.

Said attendee Douglas Hess, “What interests me is finding out what it takes to save someone’s life.”

NAMI is the “nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization,” according to the organization. Its purpose is to help people suffering from mental illnesses to live fulfilling lives by providing resources for support and treatment, plus bringing awareness to the community.

NAMI's faculty adviser and addictions counselor professor Leroy Stanford (center)  discusses the meeting's objectives with members and President Raven Stein-Lucente (left). By Imani Brown, CCC Journalism Program

NAMI’s faculty adviser and addictions counselor professor Leroy Stanford (center) discusses the meeting’s objectives with members and President Raven Stein-Lucente (left). By Imani Brown, CCC Journalism Program

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