Great minds

Maintain your mental health during your pursuit of knowledge

College is a rewarding and also stressful experience. And managing both our physical and mental health can be difficult during these years. Whether you’re currently living with mental illness or experience it at some point during your time at the university, you should know that there are resources available to you in the community—your community, now—both on campus and off.

Before we begin, when seeking guidance or care, it’s important to consider what our real needs are. And when it comes to mental health, that can depend on a lot of factors—but one really big one is substance use and abuse. That’s not to say that one leads to the other, but either can exacerbate the other, most certainly. That’s why you’ll find here both organizations that offer general support and others that are geared toward people recovering from substance abuse.

Care on campus

As its student body has swelled, the University of Nevada, Reno has taken steps to broaden the scope of the mental health care it offers students. At the William Pennington Student Achievement Center, you can access individual, group and crisis counseling. But that’s not the only place care is available. If you’re walking through the Knowledge Center this semester, you’re likely to encounter the staff and volunteers from UNR’s Take 5 program.

The Take 5 program is designed to reach out to students in the places they frequent on campus, and Program Coordinator Alexa Alessi can be found several times a week with a table full of information about accessing care, plus a fun activity—which, by the way, could be anything from coloring to petting a gang of fluffy therapy dogs. It’s also a good time to ask for help.

“Sometimes students just come over and sit down and start crying,” she said. And that’s all right. If you’re having a tough time, be aware that when you see the Take 5 table, there’s a clinician on hand that you can sit down with in private to discuss what’s going on. They can direct you to the right resources to help you manage your mental health.

(The phone number for counseling services is 784-4648, or visit

Of course, in addition to its counseling services, UNR has a slew of clubs and organizations geared toward wellness. And among them is Nevada’s Recovery & Prevention Community (NRAP). If you’re trying to lead a sober life, you can join this organization for academic support, social support through peer-to-peer services and activities, professional development advisement, scholarships, leadership training, 12-step meetings, sober events both on and off campus, and more.

(Find NRAP here:

Care in the community

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Northern Nevada has been a fixture in the community for 40 years now—but they don’t care if you’re new to town. NAMI hosts two weekly group therapy sessions on Monday evenings at Renown Regional Medical Center, 1155 Mill St. One is for people living with mental illness. The other other is for families of people with mental illness. Both are free. You don’t need need to register for either. You just show up at the Education and Simulation Center on the first floor near the Emergency Department at 6:30 p.m.

Having a family member who lives with mental illness can be its own challenge, thus why NAMI offers group therapy for folks in this situation, too. And according to executive director for NAMI Northern Nevada Sandy Stamates, the organization also offers a series of free classes designed specifically for people coping with a family member’s mental illness. Family-to-Family is an eight-class course that’s taught three times a year over the course of a few weeks.

“I know college students are already so, so busy with classes,” Stamates said. Still, she said, learning about mental illness, its causes and its symptoms can bring people a lot of perspective and help them empathize with an ill loved one.

(You can learn more about NAMI Northern Nevada here:, or call its crisis call line at 784-8090.)

The Foundation for Recovery is a nonprofit organization that’s been supporting families and individuals recovering from addiction in Las Vegas since 2005. People leading a sober life come to the organization’s facility for peer-to-peer counseling and support and sober activities. On July 25, the Foundation for Recovery opened its doors in Sparks at 621 Pyramid Way.

When talking about sobriety support groups, Program Coordinator Lisa Lee is quick to point out that UNR students already have an equivalent organization on campus in NRAP. But Lee and the Foundation for Recovery’s philosophy as an organization is based on the idea that there are many paths to addiction recovery. The organization isn’t a 12-step, faith-based group and recognizes that some people may even walk that path largely on their own.

The Foundation for Recovery is open to college students, and Lee even understands why some students might be seeking an alternative, like if you’re an older student who’s concerned about finding sober companions with similar life experiences—or even if you’re just a grad student.

“I was a teaching assistant in graduate school,” she said—and she can see why a grad student might worry about potentially sharing in a sobriety organization with their students, the people to whom they assign grades.

Nonetheless, her message, like other care providers in the community, is simple: Find the help you need.

It’s like Stamates says, “We don’t like words like ’suffering.’ People are living with mental illness, and they can live well.”

(Learn more about the Foundation for Recovery here: