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      The Invisible Illnesses

      Senior Capstone Group Looks to Break the Stigma of Mental Illness

      By Diamond Schuler and Audrey Rucker, Communication Studies ‘18

      Capstone Group

      A senior Capstone Group is raising money to have The Invisible Illnesses, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, conduct workshops on campus.

      As we sat in our senior Capstone Group meeting, brainstorming and choosing an organization to represent, Audrey received a text message from her best friend saying, “Have you been sad lately?” When she took more than two minutes to respond, she got another message from her saying, “I’m sorry – I shouldn’t have asked.”

      That conversation sparked our interest and passion for mental health awareness and the battle against mental illnesses. We knew we wanted to take this head on, and have a hand in breaking the stigma. We live in a world where if people don’t show physical signs of an illness or disability, then people don’t respect it. But, the reality is that just because you can’t see it happening on the outside doesn’t mean it’s not happening on the inside.

      According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 15-34. If you take a minute to really think, I’m sure every one of you knows at least one person with a mental illness; that person may even be you. Mental illnesses are real, and they take many different forms. We all wear masks; we all have things we struggle with.

      The Invisible Illnesses is a nonprofit organization founded by Emily Torchiana dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions by providing a public platform for individuals who have been affected by mental illness and suicide to share their stories and connect with others. The Invisible Illnesses exists to educate, encourage and inform students to reach out for help through free mental health workshops.

      invisible illness

      The Invisible Illnesses

      Emily Torchiana, founder of The Invisible Illnesses, travels around the country conducting free student workshops with hands-on activities and open discussions to teach youth about mental health.

      Torchiana travels around the country conducting free student workshops with hands-on activities and open discussions to teach youth about mental health. In less than a year, more than 700 students across the country have benefited from these workshops.

      The workshops are free to students and the host institutions, which means The Invisible Illnesses covers all costs. This was where our group saw the need and stepped in to act.

      Our communications senior Capstone Group’s goal is to raise money to fund these workshops. Our goal is to raise $5,000 for the organization by April 28 which will in turn fund more than seven workshops.

      Workshops have the potential to change lives – and save them. Now more than ever, with so much tragedy striking our nation we can’t let education on important topics like mental health slip through the cracks, just because of lack of funding.

      One South Carolina student said, “I just wanted to let you know how inspiring your workshop was at Wando High School. I’ve struggled with social anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and bullying on-and-off in my life since fifth grade. Listening to your story and learning from the workshop has inspired me to look for help and share my story!”

      The organization has been nationally recognized on multiple fronts including Founder, TED Talks, and has received a Jefferson award. However, they still need help.

      On Monday, April 16, Torchiana, the founder of the Invisible Illnesses, will host a free sample workshop at Widener University in the Freedom Hall Auditorium from 12 to 1 p.m. All students, faculty, staff, family, and members of the community are welcome to attend.

      If you cannot attend we ask that you not only support our Capstone Group but you support an organization that is trying to end the stigma around mental illnesses.

      Mental illnesses are real; they happen to everyday people, and their struggles matter. It’s time we let people know they are not alone. It’s time to remove the masks and bring invisible illnesses into the light.


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