September 24, 2020

BY NATHAN BROWN

One in five Canadians is diagnosed with a mental health illness in their life. Conestoga College faculty and staff recognize this, and are helping students get the information they need.

Mental Health Awareness Week was held at the college from Oct. 6 to 10, with Counselling Services manning booths that featured a different topic on different forms of mental health every day.

Anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide prevention were among the topics covered.

“We’re trying to create education and awareness around mental health,” said Shawna Bernard, a counsellor at the college.

The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Week was to reduce the stigma around mental health. The counselling office took the opportunity to tell students about what they have to offer.

“It’s an opportunity for us to advertise our services and a good time for students to ask questions they need answered,” Bernard said.

Approximately 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime, affecting all ages. Students in post-secondary schools become highly susceptible to mental health illnesses due to certain factors such as stress and anxiety. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately five per cent of male youth, and 12 per cent of female youth, between the ages of 12-19, experience a major depressive episode.

Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) took part in the awareness week, holding a Yellow Umbrella Project that focused on eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health and raising awareness about mental health issues within post-secondary schools.

Jeff Scherer, CSI president, said their plan for the week was to hand out as many resources as possible for students, and have students sign up for a number of events that they will be holding later in October.

Activities included safeTALK training, two guest speakers and a Yellow Umbrella colour run.

The project also featured a human library Oct. 10 in the atrium of the college. Students were provided with one-on-one time to talk to others about mental health. Two counsellors from the college participated in the event, providing students with information on counselling services.

Information during the mental health week also focused on outside resources, like Here 24/7, a group that helps people access addictions, mental health and crisis services provided by 12 different agencies across Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin. The focus of Here 24/7 is to try to create “one-stop shopping.”

On Oct. 22 a three-hour workshop will be held for students by safeTALK, a program that provides suicide alertness training to participants. Students can sign up at the CSI office.

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