Let’s Talk about Mental Illness

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Change starts small – for many, it begins with a conversation. So let’s chat.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, an opportunity for us all to take the time to remember the importance of talking about mental health.

Almost one in four Canadian students feels “overwhelming anxiety” and almost six in 10 reports experiencing significant feelings of depression in the last year.

For university students, this conversation is particularly important, as 70 per cent of mental illnesses in adults – anxiety, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders – have their onset during childhood or adolescence.

Universities have welcomed a growing number of students with disabilities – both visible and invisible – over the past decade. And as our universities listen to the voices of students touched by mental illness, we are finding creative approaches to improve and expand upon current mental health services.

The Council of Ontario Universities has brought together a group of clinical, academic and student support service representatives from universities and local communities to work on mental health initiatives, instructional videos, and advocacy and awareness-building materials, found on the Accessible Campus website, to ensure students can access adequate supports.

Caring for your emotional health and finding healthy ways to reduce stress during the academic year is equally important. Ontario universities are stepping up here as well, offering services such as mindful meditation, peer mentorship, therapy dogs, and embedded counsellors.

If you are struggling with mental illness – or know someone who is – don’t be afraid to reach out. Student services are available at every Ontario university. Below are some examples of the variety of mental health services where students can find support, and there are many more resources available. Have a conversation with friends or university staff to find out more about the supports available at your institution:

  1. Academic Accommodations: A Student Guide – Tips and tricks, developed by Queen’s University, for students with questions about managing their mental health on campus and their right to accommodation.
  2. Speaking Your Language – Tools and materials designed to address the specific mental health needs of international and new Canadian students at the University of Toronto, OCAD and Ryerson.
  3. Mental Health and Well-Being (PSYC*1400) – A unique University of Guelph course, co-developed by the Department of Psychology and the Office of Student Affairs, to help first year students with diagnosed mental health issues understand and successfully balance their mental health with student life.
  4. From Intention to Action (FIT: Action) – A Carleton University Program developed to help vulnerable students balance personal and school-related stress.
  5. Peer Support Programs – Connect with fellow students for information and support. Two programs include the University of Ottawa’s Peer Help Center and Queens University’s M2 Peer Mentoring Program.
  6. COPE – A student mental health initiative at McMaster University that is raising awareness about mental health issues, helping support students and connecting them to on- and off-campus resources.

For more information about what’s available, check out the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health’s website at campusmentalhealth.ca