October 18, 2021

Life has looked considerably different for many people over the past two years. COVID-19 took a big toll on mental health, especially in students.

Sunday, Oct 10 is World Mental Health Day, a time to raise awareness and advocate for mental health around the world. Mental health supports and services are needed now more than ever.

According to a 2020 Statistics Canada survey, around 64 per cent of participants aged 15 to 24 expressed a negative impact on their mental health during the pandemic.

“For many students, it can just be more taxing and more draining and therefore, [online learning can be] potentially more impacting on their mental health, wellbeing, and stress levels,” said Marshall Chanda, a counsellor with Student Health & Wellness Services at Conestoga College.

In Waterloo Region, the ‘echo pandemic’ of mental illness is already being felt and seen.

According to Megan Brady, a Communications Specialist with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Waterloo Wellington, over the pandemic, their Here 24/7 crisis call line has experienced a 40 per cent increase in calls.

However, there are an abundance of supports for students to turn to on campus, in the community, and online. World Mental Health Day this year highlights how we can help ourselves and others dealing with stress and anxiety.

The Kitchener Public Library (KPL) has free sensory kits available to everybody until Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at each of their community locations.

“The idea behind the kits, is to use the items to relax, focus on your senses and calm your mind from any stress, anxiety or depression you might be struggling with,” Kim Cluthe, a Senior Library Assistant at Kitchener Public Library said in an email.

Included in the kits are packages of mint gum for your sense of smell and tea bags for taste, among many more items to use.

“I think now especially, most people can appreciate or understand what it means to feel anxious or depressed, and that leads to a better understanding of the more complex mental illnesses,” said Brady.

At Conestoga College, there are many mental health services that are available anytime for students who might need some help.

Counselling, peer support, and online workshops on the Co-Curricular Portal are all available to students while most classes continue online.

“One of the [most] important things is … realizing that the help is still there, and sometimes it can just be a little harder to know that,” Chanda said. 

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