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What Mental Health Means to Us

Life at U of T Storytellers, Yashvit and Piya, share their perspectives and experiences surrounding mental health as university students.

As I near the end of my academic journey in my final semester at U of T, I tend to reflect more on how my perspective has evolved on mental health over the years. As a woman in STEM and a person of colour, I didn’t see a lot of people like me in popular media or the limelight. I remember looking at the gender ratio of students in the Engineering batch in my first year and was shocked at noticing how specific areas, such as Electrical & Computer Engineering, have such a small representation of women. 

I did not fully believe that systematic disadvantages would make me have to work harder, since I truly believed you could achieve anything you set your mind to. But when I, a high-achieving high schooler, received her first ‘Fail’ in a course, I was appalled. My confidence had dropped, and I was scared to reach out to my professor for help — since I had always faced my academic setbacks independently in the past.

How I wish I'd reached out earlier, not just to academic staff but someone who I could trust to share my battles with mental health. I did not understand why I found it so difficult sitting at a desk for more than 15 minutes. Concentrating in lectures for 50 minutes, back-to-back, 9am to 7pm was brutal for me. I questioned my intelligence — not what I may be going through.

When I did reach out to Accessibility Services for help, I received overwhelming support and ways to manage my distractions and higher levels of hyperactivity. I learned that I am extremely sensitive to sound, and once I received accommodations from Accommodated Testing Services that allowed me to write my exams in silence, my transcripts showed proof of improvement. Grades aside, I felt calmer. Now I sit through my 50-minute lectures now without losing focus! That has been a huge achievement for me.

The topic of mental health is still taboo to this day, even in developed countries and especially if you belong to a marginalized community. But I want students to know that they’re not alone, and I went through similar things they might be experiencing. Everyone needs help sometimes, and U of T has a lot of resources to support you. It’s never too early or too late to reach out for support.

– Piya

Photo of a person with their hand creating the illusion that they are "holding" the sun
Every day is a new beginning.

Mental health holds immense significance in today's fast-paced and demanding world. To me, good mental health is an important part of a fulfilling and purposeful life, and cultivating a positive outlook can significantly impact our daily experiences.

In the context of university life, maintaining good mental health is crucial. The challenges and pressures of academic life can be overwhelming, but how we perceive and handle them can make all the difference. Adopting a positive mindset can be a powerful tool that can turn adversity into opportunity.

Photo of Yashvit smiling surrounded by other students
Smile, it's a tax-free key to keeping things light and positive.

Consider the scenario of facing a challenging exam. If approached with a negative mindset, the difficulty of the exam might seem extreme. However, approaching the exam as a learning experience and opportunity for growth can transform the entire experience. This simple shift in perspective not only influences the mindset but can also affect performance.

Moreover, the impact of positive mental health extends beyond academic settings. It goes a long way through various events of life, influencing personal relationships, professional endeavors, and overall well-being. A positive outlook serves as a guiding force, allowing individuals to navigate through life's ups and downs with resilience and adaptability.

Nurturing mental health involves self-awareness, self-care, self-compassion and a proactive approach to stress management. It is a continuous process of building emotional resilience, fostering positive coping mechanisms, and developing a mindset that seeks growth and learning in every situation.

As we navigate the complexities of university life and beyond, acknowledging the significance of mental health and actively cultivating a positive outlook becomes a key determinant of success and happiness.

– Yashvit

Mental Health Resources at U of T
If you are looking for mental health support, U of T has many resources available:
💙 The Health & Wellness Centre offers a range of mental health resources, including same-day counselling appointments.
💙 Clinicians also help students build skills to mental health at free workshops offered throughout the academic year.
💙 The Centre runs the drop-in Peer Support Service, available Wednesday to Friday, 11am to 4pm, where you can talk to a fellow student about anything that’s on your mind, including goal-setting, building resilience, role-playing challenging situations, or how to access additional supports.

Feeling Distressed?
📞 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline | Call or text 9-8-8
Support available in English and French for anyone across Canada who is thinking of suicide or who is worried about someone else.
📞 U of T Telus Health Student Support | 1-844-451-9700
Outside of North America, call 001-416-380-6578

Culturally-competent mental health and counselling services in 146 languages for all U of T students.

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