The Humber College community is looking to erase the stigma surrounding mental health by sparking conversations about the topic.
“Just as you would go to the doctor for pain that you feel, it’s really important to be able to share with someone your journey, to have somebody to support you”, says Jacqueline Anderson, Associate Director for Student Health and Wellness.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), via their website, “in a given year 1 in 5 people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness.” CMHA also states “10- 20% of youth are affected by a mental health disorder.”
The Canadian Government reports that “because of the stigma, many avoid treatment.”
Humber is hoping to change that.
Jack.org at Lakeshore is a smaller branch of the larger, non profit organization known as Jack.org.They work to “train and empower young people to revolutionize mental health,” according to their website.
Hailey Appel, club founder of one of Jack.org’s chapters at Humber’s Lakeshore campus spoke about why it is important help erase stigma. A “Chapter” according to the Jack.org website “are groups of young people” who “work year round to identify and dismantle barriers to positive mental health in their communities.”
The program got its start at Humber after Appel talked to “Jack.org staff, her friends and people on campus to see who would be interested.” The Humber aspect of the program focuses on things affecting students such as “ student living, balancing school work and balancing finances”.
According to Appel, “the chapter gets to work on the more local and grassroots level at attacking what’s going on directly around us.”
One of the main issues affecting students now comes from the Ontario Government. The Provincial Government in mid January announced changes to tuition and OSAP funding, sparking student protests outside Queen’s Park.
Anderson says to help students deal with the new changes, “if there’s questions about their finances to look at speaking to somebody about some advice around planning because sometimes the fear can be something that a person feels but doesn’t know who to reach out to speak to.”
With the semester moving forward, and students buckling down, many turn to services on campus.
“When it comes time for midterms and finals, there are times when there is increased stress and more demands that’s when we see also more volumes of students coming in and needing more support,” says Anderson.
Talking to others helps to change the conversation about mental illness.
“Speaking to and coming in to speak to counsellors is helpful,” according to Anderson. “It normalizes the feelings that everybody has challenges, they have things that they need to overcome.”
Amanda Holden, a Humber student and representative for CMHA, spoke about her experiences accessing Humber’s services.
“Humber has this SWAC (Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre) program and they have mental health nurses on site and counselling available,” she says. “The counsellors are really nice and can see you whenever its flexible for your schedule.”
“I think it’s important to reduce the stigma with that because mental illness in general — there’s not as much stigma as before — but we have to do our best at educating people so that there isn’t as much stigma associated with mental illness.”
A link Humber’s Student Accessibility Centre can be found here.