Staff report

Editor’s note: This story was originally filed during the spring 2022 semester.

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is one of the many non-profit organizations that are centered around mental health and education on mental illness.

NAMI offers many virtual tools, including a helpline, a video resource library and online discussion groups. However, different locations around the country offer different in-person and even more virtual activities.

One of these, NAMI Piedmont Tri-County, offers a physical location known as The Hut where anyone can come visit, whether it’s to relax and play video games, or to join a support group.

Kati Durkee, the outreach coordinator for NAMI Piedmont Tri-County, said she thinks Winthrop students can benefit from using The Hut, which has couches, a TV and an Xbox, computers and a kitchen stocked with snacks. 

“We invite Winthrop students to come by anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They can sit and do homework if they want to, they can come and hang out with other people, we’ve got a full kitchen, they can have lunch there,” said Durkee, who was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast. 

“It’s just a way to connect with the community and find some chill and downtime without any pressure or stress.”

The Hut, which opened shortly after the pandemic started in early 2020, was originally made to be a safe place for those with mental illnesses, who didn’t have anyone they could connect with in their community. 

“We had noticed that there was a lack of community opportunities and friendship opportunities that were not happening, because there was nowhere for people to go and gather,” said Durkee, “We thought, ‘well, that we could solve.’”

Durkee also said NAMI has a need for volunteers.

“We would love volunteers to come along and sign up and help people…everybody’s welcome to come join. If you want to volunteer and just hang out and have a cup of coffee with somebody and chat with somebody, we appreciate that as well.”

Durkee said she wants people to understand how common it is for people to live with mental illness.

“We know that, prior to the pandemic, one in five youth and one in four adults were said to be living with a mental health condition. And we know that those numbers have gotten worse since the pandemic, so I think it’s important to know that mental health doesn’t just affect the people you see on TV or the people you read about in the newspaper,” she said.

“It’s your mom, it’s your dad, it’s your brother, your sister, your aunt, your uncle; everybody can experience a mental health condition. It doesn’t matter what stage of life they’re in or what economic situation they’re in. It can affect everybody equally.”

When asked what stigma she hears about the most, Durkee said the connection between mental health and violence.

“We know that statistically, people who have a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence than they are to perpetuate a violent act,” she said. “We’re all impacted by mental health, so I think it’s important to break those stereotypes and stigmas down.

“Fifty percent of people don’t reach out for treatment, because of the stigma and embarrassment about having a mental health condition,” said Durkee, “I will just say very clearly that a mental health condition is no different than any other medical condition.”

* Jakayla Cornish, Riddik Fowler, Ashlynn Hinson, Kayley Ross and Rio Yamauchi contributed to this report.