In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, Algoma University hosted a Community Event in the Speakeasy, featuring Mental Health Educator from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Lisa Carricato, and the Counselling Services team on campus.
This was a great opportunity for students to come out and get a chance to talk and ask questions about mental health awareness and resources on campus, as well as have open and safe conversations about how mental health services can be improved for university students and athletes.
Students Avery Beall and Savannah Shaver shared their concerns for the state of mental health awareness and understanding on campuses across Ontario. While they both agree that Bell Let’s Talk is an important initiative, ultimately, Beall, stated, “it is a trend, and people need to act, and keep that action ongoing.”
“Stigma is still heavy,” Beall said, “professors need to engage our mental health in the curriculum, it is not just a social issue.” While some professors support and encourage students to find balance and practice self-care, Beall and Shaver expressed that this is not a shared attitude amongst all university educators.
Shaver stated, “mental health is a primary concern when the crisis is happening, but forgotten about when the crisis is over. It is not taken as seriously as a physical illness and that is a problem.”
Beall and Shaver both highlighted a disconnect between faculty and staff and students when it comes to mental wellness, an issue they are both trying to address as they run for positions in the Algoma University Student Union (AUSU) for the next academic year.
Beall, running for Queer Student Representative, and Shaver, running for Vice President of Campus Affairs, believe that there are a number of issues with campus life that tie together and can have negative effects on student mental well-being.
These include the importance of security and safe spaces on campus, and resources for transgender people to receive mental health counselling and support that is specific to their needs and concerns.
Both students would like to see these issues brought to the forefront amongst faculty, staff, and students to promote connectivity, understanding, and ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness with true awareness and resources.
As mentioned earlier last week, Algoma University’s partnership with the CMHA makes them the first university in the country to adopt the Talk Today program, one of the most comprehensive mental health programs for varsity students to date. Carricato said, “Algoma University will become the leader, and the hope is that other universities will see it as a model for mental health programs and follow suit.”
Additionally, Student Success Advisor, Karen Hudson, has stated that the link to mental health support on campus has been increased to six days a week, including same-day help if needed, as well as evening and weekend appointment availability.
These program additions and mental health service increases can only mean good things for students at Algoma U. That, paired with forward-thinking, open, and inclusive mindsets in students and future leaders like Beall and Shaver, and increased conversation on campus with events like Bell Let’s Talk Day, should see the progression in ending the stigma surrounding mental health continue to move forward.
The Bell Let’s Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day, and provides significant Bell funding of mental health care and access, research and workplace initiatives. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.