A Rice University student struggling with depression and anxiety has created a campaign to raise money for a psychiatric service dog. Regina Aleis, a Lovett College junior, has raised more than $300 through crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com to raise money for training from Houston-based Give Us Paws, a service dog training nonprofit organization, but is still far short from the required $5,000 .
Aleis said her journey toward recovery began over a year ago. She sought counseling on campus despite hearing mixed reviews of the counseling center, but ultimately decided to receive counseling off campus, a decision made in part because of the difficulty she had scheduling appointments on campus. Aleis also takes medication and has taken her recovery seriously.
“I do yoga, I do meditation,” Aleis said. “Right now I’m going through training to become a doula [birth assistant], and I think that’s going to help me be more centered.”
Aleis has also voluntarily taken time off from school, and although Aleis has not yet discussed having a service dog on campus with the university administration, Rice does allow service animals on campus.
Initially apprehensive of telling so many people about her personal experiences with mental illness, Aleis said she has received overwhelmingly positive feedback after posting about the campaign on Facebook. She has even received messages from people sharing their similar experiences and sending positive notes.
“People who I only know as acquaintances are saying [encouraging] things, and a lot of people from the Rice community hope I’ll be back,” Aleis said. “I always had a feeling that there was a lot more going on than I thought, but seeing those messages confirmed that. It opened my eyes to see how many people are in the same boat.”
Though the idea of receiving negative feedback after sharing her experiences on her GoFundMe campaign had made her nervous, so far Aleis has not received any.
“I was afraid to put my story out there,” Aleis said. “I was afraid of what people would say and the image I would have in their eyes.”
Aleis hopes to return to Rice next fall to continue working towards her degree, service dog by her side.