KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — From winning a historic game over the weekend to leading into homecoming week, no doubt there’s a lot of excitement on the University of Tennessee’s campus. However, students are also celebrating their journeys to recovery.
Students and supporters celebrated those overcoming mental health and substance misuse burdens during the inaugural “Rockin Night of Recovery” Wednesday night.
Currently, one in seven young adults has a substance abuse disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Figures from the National Institute of Mental Health reveal young adults are also much more prone to develop any mental illness.
“We’ve seen the stigma just by in this semester,” said Rocky Top Recovery Ambassador Grace Hardin. “Interviewing people on PED walkway and people shrugging us off not wanting to take a survey or be interviewed because they don’t want to talk about their mental health.”
Some students say it’s also difficult to recognize those struggling with substance misuse.
“The stats don’t lie. Substance misuse is definitely increasing especially in the 28 to 25 age range,” Vanessa Betancourt said.
Betancourt, another Rocky Top Recovery ambassador, doesn’t want others to live in agony.
“Diagnosed with generalized anxiety disordered,” she said. “I know the struggle of feeling so anxious that it totally takes over your life.”
“Nobody can reach community members better than members of that community,” Tennessee Collegiate Recovery Initiative Director Nathan Payne said. “And so, the idea behind the ambassador program, we find students who have lived experience with both substance misuse and mental health and we empower them to go out and empower other students to live in their purpose, to live in recovery.”
“Our generation is the first generation to grow up in a social media world and I think that’s definitely had influence on our generation’s mental health growing up. But I think mental health has always been an issue and it’s just now being talked about and publicized enough because we’re seeing the effects of it. And people are changing their minds about the importance of it,” Hardin added.
Rocky Top Recovery hosts meetings every Friday at 9 p.m. at St. John XXIII University Parish.