FHSU Student Organization Feature – National Alliance on Mental Illness On Campus (NAMI OC)


NAMI OC is an affiliate organization of NAMI Golden Plains and NAMI Kansas. NAMI On Campus at FHSU is the only such university-level NAMI organization in the state.

Mental illness has always had a sort of stigma surrounding the topic. This stigma stems mainly from a lack of understanding and/or fear of the subject matter. The National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus (NAMI OC) at Fort Hays State University is determined not only to knock out the stigma on mental illnesses but also to improve the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by these diseases. 

Brianna Byerley, the NAMI OC president, expands on the ways that NAMI OC is breaking down the stigma walls on mental illness by creating a safe environment for anyone and everyone on campus. 

“I think that when people hear ‘mental illness’ they may be worried of what others will think or relate to the stigma behind it,” Byerley said. “At NAMI OC, we pride our organization by being authentic and nonjudgmental. If you need a safe place to talk about anything, we can provide that space.”

She then went on to speak about the overall goals that motivate the alliance, which are to educate advocate and support those who suffer with a mental illness or who know someone who does.

“NAMI OC creates a safe environment for students to discuss and relate about everyday peer struggles,” she said. 

Ken Windholz, instructor in Psychology at FHSU and Faculty Advisor for NAMI On Campus, adds to Byerley’s synopsis of the organization’s purpose. 

“The purpose and mission of NAMI OC is to acquaint the campus community, that is, students, faculty, staff, and administrators with the resources that are available through our organization that help inform others about what mental illness is and is not and to provide resources and support for individuals who have a mental illness diagnosis,” Windholz said. 

Windholz continues by expressing how the meetings have had a positive effect on him, saying they have become the most memorable and profound experiences. 

“They offer information and support in a compassionate, accepting and affirming setting,” he said. “The discussions provide those attending with opportunities to make connections with others as well as to gain information and perspective on a wide range of issues in mental illness and mental health.”

Byerley then offered up her own positive impact from the organization, saying some of her best friends were made from NAMI OC.

“The students and faculty in this organization are some of the most empathetic, compassionate, and genuine people I have ever met,” she said. “We have a lot of fun, but we also take care of one another.”

Byerley expands on how NAMI OC has impacted her by explaining the importance of being involved in an on-campus organization. 

“I believe it is important to be involved on campus as a student because it creates opportunities for you to make human connections as well as allow for you to broaden your likes and interests,” she said. 

In a quick wrap-up, Windholz gives a sentence of profound life advice. 

“Connecting with others in a spirit of understanding, acceptance, support and genuine caring is the most important thing a person can do in his or her lifetime and is the backing of NAMI OC.”

NAMI OC meets every other Wednesday at 3:30 pm in Rarick Hall, Room 107. The meetings are open to anyone from the campus community. For more information on the National Alliance on Mental Illness On Campus, the following link is NAMI OC’s Tigerlink

Sound Off!