NAMI addresses mental health through writing

A+member+of+NAMI+shares+a+photo+of+her+and+her+brother+during+a+writing+workshop+held+Sept.+2+

Alberto Silva Fernandez

A member of NAMI shares a photo of her and her brother during a writing workshop held Sept. 2

Kristen Scheaffer, Contributor

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at UTEP engages students with the use of creative writing as a therapeutic outlet. Pauline “Po” Ku, bilingual creative writing graduate student, leads the group every two weeks in these sessions, occasionally bringing in guests to help as well.  

Ku took the reins as president for NAMI in 2022, after serving as an officer for the organization. She is active in both UTEP’s chapter and the City of El Paso’s as well.  

NAMI El Paso is a grassroots organization dedicated to enhancing the experience and understanding of mental health for El Pasoans.  

After receiving a prize from the Caltech Alumni Association for a proposal on leading reading and writing workshops for those impacted by mental illness, Ku saw an opportunity with UTEP’s NAMI.  

“I use writing as a cathartic tool to get in touch with my feelings, express them and ultimately overcome them, and become more resilient,” Ku said. “I thought I could use writing workshops and give examples in literature.” 

According to UTEP graduate student, Desiree Travor, she enjoys NAMI because it is a group where people can come together to have difficult conversations. 

“I think that there’s a level of understanding, not because we’re close necessarily, but rather because we’re just people who are unafraid to speak our truths and find empowerment in writing about it,” Traver said. 

Ku said that anyone can join NAMI, there are not any requirements to join the organization.  

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and NAMI is raising awareness nationally with walks and crises resource sharing. NAMIWalks will host a walk in El Paso Saturday, Oct. 8, at Ascarate Park, while raising money for the cause and the programs provided through NAMI.  

“I think the biggest thing is that they shouldn’t be scared of, first of all, having a mental illness or knowing someone with a mental illness or talking about it,” Ku said. “One in five people have a mental illness, a lot of times (it is) not diagnosed right away.” 

According to Ku, there are many treatments available for those seeking help.  

Treatments can range from medication, counseling, group therapy or art therapy, and the list goes on. More treatment information can be found at NAMI’s site. 

For more information, NAMI El Paso can be reached at 915-778-5726 and is located at 201 East Main St. Ste. 600.  

Anyone experiencing crisis or having thoughts of suicide can reach out to the crisis hotline at 988 via call or text, or 988lifeline.org. The new crises number can be reached 24/7 from anywhere nationally. 

Some warning signs to look for in your loved ones if you suspect suicidal thoughts, withdrawing from friends, giving away items of significance, making dangerous decisions and extreme mood swings, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

Kristen Scheaffer is a contributor and can be reached at [email protected]