National Alliance on Mental Illness at UPR

Our contributor, Nahir Robles, sat down with the President of the UPR Chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to ask a few questions regarding what NAMI’s is and what it seeks to accomplish on campus.

The interviewee was none other than Mariela Diaz Santiago, 22, who’s a senior coursing her fifth year here at the University of Puerto Rico, also the President of the chapter.

HCUPR: Could you explain what NAMI is?

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of people affected by mental illness. NAMI on Campus Clubs are student-led and student-run mental health organizations that work to raise mental health awareness, eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and advocate for improved mental health services and policies on university campuses. NAMI does this primarily through the diverse activities that focus on educating and raising awareness about the importance of mental health.


HCUPR: What motivated you to join the chapter?

I initially joined NAMI on Campus UPRRP because many loved ones close to me suffered from mental illness, and I felt like I wasn’t educated enough on the subject of mental health to find ways to find the proper help for them through their struggles.


HCUPR: When was it founded?

It was founded in 2014 when Stephanie Pacheco decided to take on the idea. It started out with 10 to 15 people. Then, in 2015 it became an official chapter. Later on, it started having more members.


HCUPR: What are your suggestions on how to cope with mental illness?

Mental health is a complex and very personal aspect of every individual, so there is no specific way on how to cope with mental illness, as it all depends on the person’s unique situation. There are general ways to approach different disorders and mental state of mind, but there is definitely a combination of factors with which every individual must experiment with. The best way is to learn how to manage one’s personal mental and/or emotional state would be to consult with a mental health professional first, such as a psychologist or counselor, and then find support within the community as you learn about how to manage your own personal situation.


HCUPR: Do you have any activities planned for the semester?

Next week we have our two first activities for the semester.

First, we will have our First Chapter meeting on Monday, November 27. Here, students will have the opportunity of joining the organization and meet others in mental health. Students will also have the chance to learn about what is NAMI and about how to become an active member of the organization and follow our mission. We will also be announcing the future activities for this academic year in detail. The meeting will be held in the Natural Sciences faculty classroom C-206 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.

On Wednesday, November 29, NAMI on Campus UPRRP will be hosting Paint your Stress Away, a space where students can relieve stress and tension of the beginning of the new semester through art therapy. Art materials will be provided to those who attend the activity. It will be held at the Faculty room (between El Centro and Lazaro) from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.

We will soon be inviting Dr. Karen Martinez as a guest speaker to educate the community on Anxiety in Puerto Rico after the passing of Hurricane Maria.

other future activities include a Writing a Heal workshop with Prof. Kuwabong and an Open Mic in collaboration with Fractal Puerto Rico called Spoken Word: Less Stigma, More Awareness. In both activities, students will have the chance to speak about mental health through the written word and a stigma-free environment.


HCUPR: How can people join the organization?

Students can join the organization through a variety of ways.

we posted through our facebook page, NAMI on Campus UPRRP, a link to a Google Form, where students would be able to apply to the organization to receive info about chapter meetings and activities through the e-mail of their choosing.

Students can also attend our First Chapter meeting on November 27.

Interested people can also contact NAMI on campus personally through our Facebook page or through our e-mail [email protected].

They can contact us if they have any doubts or questions relating to the organization and activities.

Our offices are located near DCODE, on the first floor, right hallway (first door to the right).


HCUPR: Are there any requirement to join?

We have no affiliation with any faculty: anyone can join. We do have a certificate for those members who would wish to have one.


HCUPR: What are the short term and long term goals of the organization?

Short term: Initiate the conversation with the Rio Piedras Campus community.

Long-term: Eliminate the stigma that it is mental illness. We want to have inclusivity with the students and break the stereotype between each other. Just break the general stigma that mental health carries.


HCUPR: What advice do you have for students?

My advice for students would be to not be afraid to talk about mental illness because through conversation, we can eliminate the taboo. We can inspire others to get the proper care if they need it. It’s okay to not feel perfectly fine all the time. this does not make you weak, it just makes you human.