After battling bipolar disorder for two years, Brian Hamm wants to let others know they’re not alone.
In August, the 23-year-old created the local organization Warriors Find Hope as a way to pair up students who have depression with others who can help guide them through the emotional trial.
The “hopefulls,” or the volunteers not dealing with depression, will help the “warriors,” students with depression, by giving them someone to talk to, Hamm said.
“I feel like we are missing that component of just love and compassion,” he said.
Counseling helped Hamm through his struggle with bipolar disorder, but he wants his organization to help others through a more personal experience.
Hamm said he was able to work at a suicide hotline for six months, which gave him the chance to help others who were battling different types of mental illnesses.
“I am one of the most healthy people with bipolar disorder,” Hamm said. “So with what I’ve experienced, I want to give back.”
Hamm, who plans to transfer to UF, has been working to create the organization for two months. Currently, a handful of his friends are part of the group.
Benjamin Heggie, who has known Hamm for 10 years, was there when Hamm went through his battle with bipolar disorder. Heggie was the original hopefull, while Hamm was the warrior.
“I always see him always striving to overcome this burden on his life,” Heggie said.
Joan Scully, a counselor at the UF Counseling & Wellness Center, said having a friend there can make all the difference.
“Social support (groups) are a big part of how people get better,” Scully said. “Peer support is always the way to go.”
She said there may be some times when professional help may be necessary, especially if the issue becomes something the hopefull cannot handle individually.
“If people are having difficulty communicating, or if they are expressing any thoughts of harming themselves,” Scully said, “or if there’s clearly a drug or alcohol issue going on, those would be reasons to involve a professional.”
The CWC offers support groups similar to Hamm’s organization, she said.
Grace Hubbard, 23, a member of Warriors Find Hope, has suffered from depression for about 10 years.
“As soon as he told me about the idea, I was on board,” the Santa Fe College early childhood education sophomore said. “I think it will help a lot of students to open up.”
Hamm said he hopes to begin pairing up members of the organization for 30 days by Nov. 1.
“We are going to teach depressed people that they are not weaker,” Hamm said. “It’s going to be like this little community.”