By AMELIA MERCHANT
Monday night, community members and Colorado College students came together to discuss mental health awareness with guest speaker, Hakeem Rahim. CC’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosted this event. NAMI has been working to raise awareness about mental illness through speakers and film screenings. “We work to de-stigmatize mental health on campus throughout conversations on the subject,” said senior Caleigh Cassidy, founder of CC’s chapter of NAMI. “Hakeem Rahim has spoken in front of Congress and to thousands of people, so we thought he would be a good choice for a speaker.”
Rahim is a Harvard graduate, and the CEO of I Am Acceptance and Live Breathe, LLC. He has openly struggled with bipolar disorder since he was 17 years old. “We have to change what we think mental illness looks like … Because there’s a lot of people thriving and there’s also a lot of people suffering in silence and pain,” said Rahim. During his speech, Rahim discussed his journey with mental illness honestly, talking about how a manic episode during his sophomore year of college caused his parents to come pick him up and submit him to a psychiatric ward. He then took a year and a half off from school before returning to graduate with honors.
His “I Am Acceptance” tour is aimed at encouraging mental health awareness and acceptance, and ensuring that those who are in positions to help know which steps to take.
Rahim spent much of his talk discussing how vital it is to be supportive and nonjudgmental towards someone suffering from a mental illness. “The sooner we get over the shame of what it means to have a mental illness and get the help that we need, the better,” Rahim said.
Rahim encouraged students to reach out when they are struggling with mental health, and concluded by presenting the resources that are available to CC students, such as the Boettcher Counseling Center (719-389-6093). “The more we talk about the shame surrounding mental illness, the more we can learn about the resources we have and the more we can practice tools around wellness and self-acceptance,” said Rahim. “Through this, we can really change what’s inside and then change the world around us.”
When asked why NAMI chose to specifically invite Hakeem Rahim, Cassidy said, “I’ve realized that the conversation about mental health on our campus is lacking in terms of diversity. Even just for our events, the people who are represented are mostly white and female-identifying. I wanted to make sure that this conversation would be opened up to people with different intersecting identities.”
NAMI is hoping to continue hosting events into the year, including a documentary film screening next block and a storytelling event that has been popular in the past.