NDSU provides a supportive community that cares about student success in and out of the classroom. Students, faculty and staff often work together to create a positive learning environment and caring campus atmosphere focused on personal well-being.
The Snap the Stigmacampaign is an example of this relationship. Snap the Stigma was created by Elizabeth Skoy, associate professor of pharmacy practice, Amy Werremeyer, associate professor of pharmacy practice, and Meghan Kirkwood, assistant professor of visual arts, to help NDSU students living with mental illness.
“Our goal of this project is to see the stigma of mental illness evaporate on campus,” Werremeyer said. “That’s the kind of environment we want to create here.”
The program uses a website, Instagramand Facebookpage to post submitted photos and captions reflecting an individual’s experience with mental illness. The photos range from an empty office space to a group of prescription pill bottles on a counter to a closeup of video game art. The captions are personal and insightful.
Skoy said posting the photos and writing the personal captions has been described as therapeutic for people living with mental illness. The photos also show users they’re not alone in their struggle. In addition, the website gives people with no history of mental health issues an inside look at the experience of other people on campus. A list of national, local and NDSU mental health resources are available on the website to help students with immediate needs.
Photos and captions can be uploaded by anyone whose life has been affected by mental illness, including friends and family.
The hope is to have more open conversations about mental illness, and to create a campus atmosphere where students feel comfortable seeking the help they need. It also could have a broader impact.
“This started with trying to help our students,” Skoy said. “But this therapy is for everyone. This project has no boundaries. It’s online and can be used for anyone to go to the website, participate or just look and learn about mental illness.”
Several departments and student groups on campus have partnered with Snap the Stigma to help promote the website and help students. Last year, students in an NDSU communication class helped rebrand the website and proposed a marketing strategy. NDSU’s counseling center and Healthy Herd Champions, a student wellness peer education group, recommend participation in Snap the Stigma as education for students.
Ethan Johnson, a strategic communication major, and Alison Peters, a marketing major, are in charge of presenting details of the program to student groups and marketing Snap the Stigma to the student body. Johnson was part of the communication class that help set the direction for the program last year.
In addition to learning more about mental illness, Johnson gained valuable career experience that will help him when he enters the workforce. He graduates in December.
“I gained a lot of new skills in marketing and promotion from being involved in this project,” said Johnson, from Galesburg, North Dakota. “Being able to apply what I’ve learned in my classes to this project has been very insightful and beneficial. And everyone I’ve talked to about the project has been very interested in how they can help or how they can get involved.
“I think that speaks volumes about how accepting and supportive we are at NDSU.”