George Mason Students Start Cure Alliance Campus Chapter
Students at George Mason University (GMU) have rallied to Cure Alliance’s mission of education and advocacy and recently launched the inaugural campus chapter of Cure Alliance, Cure Mental Illness (CMI) GMU.
Mason has responded enthusiastically. Within a few short weeks of establishing the group, over a hundred undergraduate and graduate students from disciplines including Neuroscience, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work, and Global & Community Health contacted CMI to ask how they could contribute. Our members are energetic, bright, motivated, and bring diverse experiences to the table. Many are currently engaged in research projects, have worked as clinicians in mental health care, or are active participants of community groups that support mental health. Many have been personally affected by mental illness and see the organization as a means to positively impact their lives and alleviate the suffering of loved ones.
Opportunities for CMI members abound. At Mason, students can directly participate in neuroscience research, clinical research through a joint program with INOVA hospital, and research concentrations within psychology, global and community health, and law. We plan to host a Mental Illness Research Day this year to provide a venue for Mason researchers across disciplines to share their work related to mental health and spark collaboration.
The Mason campus is within a few miles of DC, providing the chance to interact with federal policymakers. Prominent researchers frequently visit the area, such as at the Mental Illness Across the Ages event sponsored by the Dana Foundation and AAAS in September (video available here). CMI members attended this event to learn more about how different age groups are affected by mental illness, where treatment efforts have succeeded, and what challenges lie ahead. The panelists were excited to hear about our group. They underscored the importance of student involvement for increasing public awareness of the gap that exists between research funding and the disease burden of mental illness. We also spoke with students from other college campuses in the DC Metro area about how additional chapters might be started.
In October, several CMI students attended this year’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in Chicago, meeting researchers from around the world, helping out at the Cure Alliance for Mental Illness booth, and presenting their own work. And CMI just had an informational table in the campus student center, raising awareness about mental illnesses and research.
We are currently developing educational modules to teach facts about the brain and brain disorders to elementary, middle, and high school students in the area. To enhance our own understanding of current progress in mental illness research, we have started a literature search committee. We also plan to host experts in mental illness research and advocacy, starting with Cure Alliance co-founders Robin Cunningham and Hakon Heimer.
A long-term vision for curing mental illness must focus on increasing our understanding of the biological bases of human behavior. This will require a multidisciplinary approach and the cooperation of scientists, clinicians, and the public to support mental illness research. Looking ahead, CMI at George Mason University is on a promising track to help cure mental illness.
To get involved or find out more, CMI can be reached at CureMI.GMU@gmail.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @CureMI_GMU. If you’d like to start a chapter on your campus, contact Cure Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—by Dan McHail, founder and president of CMI-GMU