Purdue graduate student selected for Dean Betty Nelson Service Award
Nichole Ramirez wants people struggling with mental illness to know they are not alone.
Ramirez, a doctorate student from El Paso, Texas, studying engineering education at Purdue University, said a stigma surrounds mental illness. That’s why, she said, it’s important to raise awareness, especially on college campuses, where one in four students experience some type of mental illness.
This year, Ramirez served as president of NAMI on Campus Purdue, the university affiliate of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. The group, which started in November 2014, works to raise awareness and educate people about mental illness.
“Our goal is to reduce stigma regarding the issue and provide an outlet for people to talk about their experiences but also know how to help others,” said Ramirez, who the Mortar Board recently honored with the Dean Betty Nelson Service Award, which recognizes Purdue students who excel in community service.
It’s important, Ramirez said, to recognize possible symptoms, such as everyday stresses or an individual who might be contemplating suicide.
“We have plenty of resources on campus for students to seek out and actually get help,” she said. “We want to be there to help show students there are these resources and that you’re not alone.”
For example, last October, NAMI on Campus Purdue partnered with Mental Health America to provide mental health first aid training to 17 students. In addition, the group also hosted NAMI’s In Our Voices program, which features a 90-minute presentation from individuals who have mental illness conditions, according to NAMI’s website.
Her mission as a whole, she said, is to help NAMI on Campus Purdue grow and to assist others. Ramirez, who graduates in December, said the organization has helped her develop a strong support system she didn’t have before.
She also looks forward to a bright future for NAMI on Campus Purdue.
“I really hope the organization will continue, but I hope that the population they do affect, the people that we do help grows, and there’s so many ways to do that,” Ramirez said. “Mental health is important to every single person on campus — students, staff, faculty. … And my hope is that they’ll be able to reach more people and make people feel comfortable talking about it.”
About this series
Each week, the Journal & Courier will feature an Unsung Hero who is working behind the scenes to make a difference in Greater Lafayette.
Share your stories about this Unsung Hero and any you might know on the Journal & Courier’s Facebook page.