Mental Well-Being Week Aims to Raise Awareness, Action

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Students Ariel Filler, left, and Amanda Glouchkow were handing out T-shirts Monday as part of 1-in-5 Mental Well-Being Awareness Week.

Highlighting mental health services and supports for students is the purpose of 1-in-5 Mental Well-Being Awareness Week, to take place at the University of Guelph this week.

The event, which runs from today through Nov. 10, is another in a series of steps to ensure the mental health and well-being of students, and is intended to remind them to take care of themselves and help them boost their sense of well-being, said Jean Thompson, a wellness educator in the University’s Department of Student Wellness.

“In September, there is a big push of resource information. But as term papers start to come due and exams approach, students can use a reminder of what’s available and how we can help.”

Activities will include a mental health resource fair in the University Centre on Monday, stress-busting physical and creative activities throughout the week, and workshops on practical steps for improving mental health.

More faculty and staff members will participate this year, a sign that support on campus for student mental well-being is expanding, Thompson said.

Many will wear “1-in-5” T-shirts to show their support for students.

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that one in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year.

Universities and colleges across Canada are experiencing a sharp increase in demand for mental health services.

A survey of Ontario university students by the American College of Health Association found that, between 2013 and 2016, anxiety increased by 50 per cent and depression by 47 per cent, and suicide attempts rose by 47 per cent.

Mental health professionals say youth are under more pressure than ever before and that the problem is becoming overwhelming.

This past spring, U of G installed a yellow “friendship bench” in Branion Plaza to encourage discussion of mental health in the University community and to reduce mental health stigma. The bench contains a web address to resources and services for mental health and suicide prevention.

For three nights in early October, about 85 faculty and staff volunteers visited student residences during House Calls to check in with students and offer practical information on mental health support. They spoke with about 2,050 students.

Workshop topics during 1-in-5 Week will include stress and sleep management, supporting others’ mental health, and feeling good about successes and guarding against perfectionism.

“We want students to understand that anybody can struggle and that everybody can help,” said Thompson.