At a time when mental healthcare is on the rocks, Stand Up for Your Sister, a new organization on campus, seeks to provide resources to women affected by mental illness and raise awareness among the Kansas State community.
Stand Up for Your Sister was founded this semester by Staci Gann, senior in family studies. The idea behind Stand Up for Your Sister was developed when Gann was a resident assistant in Ford Hall last year.
Gann said she is currently working on gaining official non-profit status for the organization, but the 120 K-State women who are part of the leadership team are already taking initiative on breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental illness, eating disorders and domestic violence.
Gann said it is hard for people to be vulnerable about mental health issues, and her initial goal was to open the conversation around these problems.
“There’s this facade of neatness that people believe they have to hold,” Gann said. “We just want to break down that barrier and stigma for women by providing a safe place for them to talk about those things.”
Other students agreed that mental health is a frequently misunderstood problem.
“I personally don’t understand why mental illness is considered less than any physical illness or harm,” Josephine Danielson, junior in nutrition and kinesiology, said. “It can be just as detrimental to a person’s health and well-being.”
Mental health is typically a chronic condition, meaning high treatment costs tend to follow. According to the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, mental disorders are among the five most costly conditions in the United States.
“I recognize that treatment for mental illness can be extremely expensive, and women who are already fighting their own internal struggles with mental health shouldn’t have to endure financial burden on top of that,” Danielson said.
Once granted non-profit status, Gann said she wants to be able to offer scholarships through Stand Up for Your Sister for students attending specialized treatment and counseling.
K-State’s Counseling Services offer four free counseling sessions per school year to enrolled students, but sessions five through 10 are $15 per visit, and sessions 11 and onward are $25 per visit. The Counseling Services also cannot provide “more specialized forms of treatment,” according to their website.
“If a student needs more intensive counseling and can’t afford to be off-campus, then they’re back at square one, and we don’t want that to happen,” Gann said. “Through Stand Up for Your Sister, we want to be a financial resource for those students.”
Madison Rockers, sophomore in family studies, said the financial coverage of physical and mental health should be in balance.
“I think physical and mental health should be covered equally because the effects of both are equally as harmful to the person,” Rockers said.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 18 percent of American adults suffered from a mental illness in 2015.
“The thing about mental health [sufferers] is that a lot of the time, it doesn’t only affect them,” Danielson said. “It’s affecting everyone in their family and friends.”
Gann said that while she enjoys traveling to give presentations on the ideals of Stand Up for Your Sister, she really wants to start providing financial resources once granted non-profit status.
“We’d love to continue traveling and spread a message of hope and let people know that they’re not alone, but financially, our biggest goal is to have a scholarship fund established so we can start providing resources to women,” Gann said.