Dal’s Peer Support Group, Laing House, Therapeutic Paws of Canada. These are just some of the organizations that partnered with the Mental Health Awareness Week.
Spearheaded by Joanna Cohen, a ResLife advisor and Senior Residence Advisor at Risley Hall, this week-long event is meant to make university students aware of stigmatized topics such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as where they can turn to for help.
University students are often more vulnerable to mental health problems due to the high rates of stress they experience. While there are many groups on campus that champion the issue of mental health, it can be difficult to figure out who is doing what and where the best place is for help. Cohen felt that “a collaboration between all departments and organizations around [Dalhousie]” was needed.
“For myself, as well as for other people, I work in residence, so I see a lot of people struggle with [mental health problems],” she said. “A lot more people on campus are aware of [the event] and more receptive to it this year.”
“This year’s been much more successful in terms of how many societies we’ve been able to collaborate with,” said Kaitlyn Zajdlik, also part of the organizing team and a Reslife RA.
The events ranged from the always-popular puppy room to a splatter paint party to a fair promoting of several organizations and groups connected to the issue of mental health. With attendance of upwards 100 at some events, it unquestionably engaged students.
“There were a lot of great events…we had a lot of variety in our events, which is what I think appealed to students,” said Jacob Hamilton, fellow organizer and PROsocial project student leader. “If you weren’t interested in one thing, there was definitely something later in the week that you would be interested in.”
“I think [awareness] is really important in terms of stigma, and trying to decrease that,” Zajdlik said. “I think the fact that we have a week all about awareness for it allows for conversation to be had, and I think that’s the most important part. If we can enable people, or provide spaces and activities that allow people to talk about it freely then it helps decrease the stigma, and also helps demonstrate how important it is for Dal society.”
As for next year, the organizers hope to begin planning as soon as possible. “We’re looking to make it bigger, have bigger events, get more people involved, and hopefully collaborate with more societies than we are already,” Hamilton said.