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Nov. 19, 2008, edition 1 /
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Page 8 / Wednesday. November 19. 2008
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Mental health authority speaks to sorority women about disorders
When Colleen Coffey came to speak to Elon’s
sorority women on Tuesday, Nov. 11, she didn’t talk
about philanthropy events or how not to commit
To celebrate Women’s Week, Coffey, program
manager for the National Mental Health Campaign,
shared her story with the women of Elon’s Panhellenic
community to raise awareness about the presence and
dangers of different mental health disorders.
“I’m going to tell you my story in hopes that perhaps
it will give you some insight on talking about feelings,
talking about emotions and the fact that these issues
are totally real and totally relevant, but they are
treatable,” Coffey said.
After feeling conflicted all throughout middle
school, Coffey couldn’t take it anymore. With $80 in her
pocket, she took her parents’ car and ran away to St.
Louis. It was after this incident that she was sent to an
all-girls boarding school for high school and later to a
“1 was very angry and mad at the world,” Coffey
But Coffey did not just resort to running away to
escape her problems.
“I tried to work very hard at being thin,” she said.
“1 was so malnourished that my heart could have
stopped, but 1 didn’t care and 1 kept going.”
At one point during her time in graduate school, she
missed the birth of her friend’s baby so she could go to
the gym in hopes of losing more weight.
But Coffey was able to overcome it all. While earning
a bachelor’s degree at Belmont University, a master’s
in college student affairs at Eastern Illinois University,
being involved in a Greek organization and dealing
with relapses and her parents’ divorce, Coffey came out
of it all with a different outlook on life.
She credits much of this to the sisters of her
sorority. Alpha Sigma Tau.
“I was able to graduate from college and I completely
attribute that to the people in my life who supported
me,” she said. “No matter how sad I was or how anxious
I was, I was able to feel like I belonged. I think that’s
something really, really cool about sororities and
fraternities, that in spite, or sometimes because of, your
challenges, you make each other better women [and
Coffey explained that there are many different
factors that can trigger these disorders.
“Mental disorders can be biologically based,
Coffey said, explaining that her own mother suffers
from similar disorders. “Also environment, neglect,
abuse, things of that nature can trigger a mental
While she is still not completely recovered,
Coffey maintains a positive attitude.
“I’m not cured,” she said. “I wish I could tell you
that I was cured, but Tm not. But I’m better today
than I was yesterday.”
Coffey stressed the importance of seeking
help for mental health disorders for not only one s
personal benefit, but also for the benefit of loved
“When we are talking about mental health
issues, mental disorders and the level of harm that
it causes to you," she said. “We cannot forget the
exponential level of harm that these things can
have on the people in your lives, on the people who
love and care about you and think that you are
Colleen was on the
road to having every
success in life until she
was hospitalized in 9th
grade. She struggled with
eating disorders, anxiety
and depression during her
high school and college
years before finding
balance in her life.
She now works as a
program manager for the
National Mental Health
Coffey is an entertainer
and inspirational speaker.
She has been active in
sorority life since she was
an undergraduate and is
the author of the book:
“I Heart Recruitment:
The Eight Steps to
Limitless Possibilities for
DAVID WELLS | Photo Editor
Juniors Alex Trevisan, Dan Browne and John Lynn sing Backstreet Boys “Tell Me Why” Monday night at Elon’s
marketing fraternity. Pi Sigma Epsilon, “So you think you can sing?” karaoke competition. The event, at $3 per
ticket, aimed to raise funds and awareness for ANCHOR, a program serving those with disabilities.
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