In Canada, 3.2 million youth are at risk of developing depression or mental health illness. Renee Raymond is a kinesiologist and cognitive behavioural therapist who wants to know their stories.
The Canadian Mental Health Association shares staggering statistics of the impact that mental health illnesses have on youth, and Raymond states that there is a mental health crisis in Canada’s post-secondary institutions. This inspired Raymond to start the project Mindfulness and You, in which she is creating an anthology of stories from post-secondary students about their experiences with mental health, stigmas and seeking treatment.
“Mindfulness and You is a project I started where I wanted to really help identify what it is that we need to do to address the mental health crisis that is happening with post-secondary students,” said Raymond, who is hoping to include stories from students across the country.
She was inspired to launch the project from her work as a cognitive behavioural therapist and the return-to-work counselling she has done. Raymond also became involved with the organization Jack.org, where she saw firsthand that many students were struggling with their mental health.
“As I started delving deeper I started to see that different universities, colleges or trade schools don’t really know how to deal with this crisis, and we don’t have a plan as a country to really address this issue, and it’s really starting to balloon,” Raymond said.
She added that despite her extensive research, she believes there is still not a clear sense of what it is students need in terms of treatment.
Her plans for the anthology are to use it as a resource for organizations, lawmakers and policy makers, adding, “I would supplement that with research and commentary to try and tie the stories together, and make a cohesive guide to help other individuals, and take some direction, and hopefully implement policy changes.”
Raymond hopes to market the finished project in order to show that there are alternatives to addressing mental health in youth, primarily youth who are attending post-secondary institutions or have dropped out of post-secondary institutions due to their mental health.
Ally Geist is a successful mental health blogger on Dalhousie Campus, who believes that youth sharing their stories can have an impact on other people coming forward with their own experience.
“My friends who were vocal about their limitations had an impact on the person I am shaping myself to be. I think it’s easier for someone to see that their friend said this, their friend was open about this, I can be too.”
Geist has worked with the organization Jack.org and Wear Your Label; and has performed speeches to high-school students on her own mental health story. She uses her blog posts with Wear Your Label, and her personal Instagram to share self-care practices and mental health experiences with young people from across the country.
Geist stated that it was her Residence Life Manager, and her friend Laura, who inspired her to talk more openly about her mental health and to be an advocate for others as well as herself.
“Hopefully when people talk about it, it will help other people take those little steps to have the tough conversations,” she said, “The more I have spoken about my own story, the more I have had people reach out to me to ask how they can get involved or ‘thanks for saying that, I needed to hear that’. It’s shocking to me how many people will tell me that they’ve also being going through that.”
Both Raymond and Geist have said that getting involved with local organizations, whether they are on campus or in the community, can have positive impact for an individual looking for support. Students can also share their story with Raymond and her project Mindfulness and You.
The submission information can be found at mindfullyyouwellness.com. The deadline for submission is November 30th.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly titled Renee Raymond as a doctor and did not include the correct name of Raymond’s blog. The piece has now been updated. The Gazette apologizes for these errors.