WKU to offer on-campus mental health support group

Emma Collins

WKU students who face mental health issues will now have an on-campus support group to attend.

The group, which is offered by the Bowling Green Chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, will meet two times a month in room 211 of the Academic Complex. The meetings, which run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., are open to all students regardless of whether they have an official mental health diagnosis.

“Any students are invited to come; they don’t have to have a formal diagnosis of depression or anxiety or schizophrenia or any other mental health diagnosis,” said Jay Gabbard, associate professor of social work, who will be overseeing the group.

The Bowling Green chapter of NAMI, founded in 1985, originally offered support groups only for the family members of individuals with mental illnesses. A growing interest in these groups eventually led to the formation of Connections support groups, or support groups for individuals facing their own mental health problems.

Since then, NAMI Bowling Green has grown, expanding from the meeting rooms of churches to its own office, Wellness Connection.

Larry Gregory, the president of NAMI Bowling Green, said the idea to bring a support group to WKU had been discussed for several years.

Gabbard, noticed that many students, especially those early in their academic careers, struggled with both anxiety and stress in a new environment away from their support systems.

After a student’s suicide on campus in November 2015, there was a push to start the group as soon as possible.

“I felt that it was very necessary that we get something started to support all the students on Western Kentucky’s campus,” Gregory said.

The result is a free group that will serve as another resource for students to use in addition to the on-campus Counseling and Testing Center and other mental health providers.

Gabbard stressed that this group will not serve as primary therapy. Any student who shows serious psychiatric illness will be referred to the center.

He added, “The value of a support group is people are able to talk to other people who are experiencing significant issues with depression, anxiety or other mental health symptoms and receive support from them and also suggestions on things that have worked in their lives.”

So far, the idea for the support group has received positive responses from faculty and staff.

“The main thing is to create awareness. There is support and there is help, and then there also is hope,” Gregory said.