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Louise Bradley: Making the grade on campus mental health

An opinion by an expert.

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Opinion

Louise Bradley
CEO
, Mental Health Commission of Canada
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual, including The Avro Post. Our Opinion Policy.

I remember my post-secondary years like they were yesterday.

And not because it was the joyful time I had hoped for.

For me, it was a time of turmoil — a time when I lost my closest friend to suicide, and her death made me realize that I had a lot of unresolved trauma of my own.

I’m telling you this because there are some people who question whether mental health matters on campus. People who say that universities are institutes of higher learning — full stop. That they don’t have a responsibility or an obligation to see students through the rough patches they encounter, to teach them how to bend — not break — when confronted with life’s inevitable challenges.

To them I say this: Were it not for a caring dean of nursing, who put me on a path to therapy, insight, and healing, I know I would not be sitting where I am today, leading the country’s national body on mental health.

Her kindness, her perception, and her insistence that I seek care reinforced the feeling that I was someone worth investing in. And I believe that every student, no matter their background, social status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, deserves the same kind of compassion I received.

Thankfully, many campuses today are realizing the value of investing in student mental wellness, and they are stepping up to the plate to bridge gaps in access to services. In fact, nine institutions so far have piloted The Inquiring Mind Post-Secondary training (TIM PS) — an evidence-based program that teaches students how to hold up a mirror to gain an understanding of their mental state — while another 20 are beginning to roll it out.

As I write this, some 3,000 students in Canada have been introduced to simple behavioural therapy techniques to manage stress and to the mental health continuum model, which describes mental wellness on a colour coded scale — green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured), and red (ill). The Working Mind, the workplace predecessor of TIM PS, has clearly demonstrated the program’s capacity to improve help-seeking behaviour and create more supportive, caring workplaces.

It makes terrific sense to start young people on an early path to self-care and self-awareness: to teach students that their academic progress goes hand in glove with their capacity to build resiliency, encourage them to look after their mental well-being, and support friends and family who may be experiencing a mental health problem.

With mental health services on campuses being oversubscribed because young people are more willing than my generation was to step up and ask for help, many institutions are recognizing the need to do things differently. This proactive approach will prevent a crisis from bubbling up.

By intervening appropriately, they will be sending new graduates out into the world who are equipped not only for the intellectual demands of their careers — but also for emotional rigours they’re sure to encounter.

With $6 billion in lost workplace productivity every year, training post-secondary students in TIM PS should bolster their mental wellness, as well as their productivity. 

Students are hardly “delicate flowers,” as a hard-nosed columnist once suggested. They are people on a search for knowledge, a quest for understanding. They should be encouraged to look both outward and inward to find the answers they seek.

Supporting them, and helping them to thrive, both academically and emotionally, will lead to a healthier and happier society. ■

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Humber monitoring coronavirus outbreak

There are no special actions at this time.

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Humber College said it is monitoring the novel coronavirus outbreak and its “potential impact on the institution” in a statement posted online last week and updated on Monday.

Toronto Public Health told the college that “there are no particular actions required” at this time.

A special group tasked with keeping the campus community informed on the latest precautions for the virus has been established, made up of stakeholders from various departments and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Humber points students, staff and faculty to the Ontario Ministry of Health website’s dedicated webpage for updates.

The college’s announcement also asked that those on campus “wash their hands as frequently as possible” due to it being the winter flu season.

As of Tuesday morning in Ontario, there is one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, one “presumptive” case and 11 cases under investigation. ■

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Nominations open for 2020 IGNITE elections

Nomination packages are due by Feb. 14.

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IGNITE on Tuesday posted details and nomination packages for its 2020 elections on social media, setting up its first ever election without executive positions.

There are 10 positions open for students to run for, all on the Board of Directors.

There are four positions open at North Campus, three seats at Lakeshore, two open at Guelph-Humber and a sole position available at Orangeville.

All nomination packages are due by Feb. 14 and can be filled out on the elections webpage. ■

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Bell Let’s Talk Day coming to Humber

Bell let’s talk day will be coming to Humber on Jan. 29.

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Bell will be bringing their yearly Let’s Talk event to Humber College this week.

Let’s Talk Day is a national day of raising awareness about mental health and furthering the conversation of acceptance, support and to decrease stigma.

The day also encourages the use of various platforms including social media to engage individuals. Bell also donates money to mental health funds based on messages sent throughout the day on their cellular network and social media posts.

Bell will be hosting two events at both Humber North and Lakeshore Campuses on Jan. 29.

The first event will be held at North in the LRC, starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 12 p.m. The second event will be held at Lakeshore in A170 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is open to both Humber and Guelph-Humber student

Students who wish to contribute to the cause can make a tweet, a social media video, use Bell’s Facebook frame or Snapchat filter and also use the hashtag #BellLet’sTalk on social media. ■

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