Cultural Connection educates students on mental illnesses

Shippensburg University’s Residence Hall Association (RHA) held an event in Harley Hall’s Multipurpose Room on Wednesday titled “Mental Health and Disabilities Cultural Connection.” 

Cultural connections are held throughout the school year in SU’s residence halls, and are events that celebrate diversity and human understanding by highlighting an issue within the student population, according to the RHA’s webpage on

National Alliance on Mental Illness, also known as, NAMI, is the nation’s largest mental health organization and was the main presenter at the event. 

Kaz Sortino, supervisor of the cultural connection, explained that a lot of hard work and dedication went into the program. 

“We had meetings once a month and then every week for six weeks prior to the event,” Sortino said. 

Junior Alicia Klinger said the group created a banner in support of mental health advocacy.

“We created a banner for guests to advocate and create change, [and] anyone can get their hand painted in whatever color they choose and place it on the banner to spread awareness,” Klinger said. 

A video about mental health was played during the event. The presenters, who had each been affected by mental illness, talked about their dark days, acceptance, treatment, coping skills, success, hopes and dreams. 

NAMI presenter Wanda Miller was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2014. She said she has dealt with suicidal isolation, and her family has a history of depression and anxiety. 

Suicidal isolation is when a person heavily thinks about suicide but never attempts or succeeds in killing themselves. 

“I did a lot of isolating, had nightmares and just felt worthless. I didn’t do anything and I just lost the will to live at times,” Miller said. 

“I think that having people from the NAMI organization was eye-opening. Overall, the program was well-rounded and engaging,” senior Bailey Welch said.

NAMI educates, advocates and leads millions of Americans affected by mental illness. The organization also encourages the public to fight the stigma against mental illness by educating themselves and others.

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