Conveniently (almost too much so), while I was feeling down about myself, a friend of mine was hosting a mental health talk and so I decided to check it out. It was both enlightening and humbling, to say the least. More importantly, I feel like it really shone a light on mental illness by talking about it publicly and candidly. While I have a pretty good idea of how common mental illness is in society, I still somehow felt like we were breaking a taboo by listening to personal experiences of mental illness, in a very public and open space.
Those uncomfortable feelings bring me to my own personal campaign for October: making everyone aware that October is Mental Health Awareness Month at U of T. According to Health Canada, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The remaining four will know a friend, family member or colleague who will. And Statistics Canada records show that young people age 15-24 are more likely to report mental illness and/or substance use disorders than other age groups. In addition, almost 16% of U of T students report that depression negatively impacts their academics, and 25% report that anxiety negatively impacts their academics (ACHA-NCHA Spring 2009). Given these numbers and, perhaps your own anecdotal observations, wouldn’t you agree that mental illness deserves our attention?
Well, UofT has recognized that, and has created a new Mental Health campaign called “of another MIND”. This campaign is indicative of UofT’s primary commitment to address the stigma associated with mental illness. In particular, Health and Wellness, in collaboration with other departments at UofT, are hosting a number of events throughout the month of October to bring awareness to mental illness and mental health more broadly. Here are a few you may choose to get involved in:
October 10th: From Me 2 U on Twitter
New students: tweet your questions
Upper year students: tweet your advice
Follow the conversation at @Me2UofT
(October 10 is also World Mental Health Day!)
October 22nd: The Happy Movie
Explore the secrets of this valued emotion and engage in relative discussion.
4:30-7:30pm at Old Vic Alumni Hall, Victoria College
October 24th: 5-Buck Lunch & Mental Health Fair
11am-2pm in the Great Hall at Hart House
Get to know the resources at U of T and in the community, to support your mental wellness.
There will also be some Wellness Workshops throughout the month of October.
In taking on this campaign, I hope to learn more about mental health, and given the salience of mental health on university campuses, my hope is that others will take some time during this month to learn about the importance of mental health as well.
Are you comfortable talking about mental health issues? Maybe October is the time to give it a try.