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Read this before delving into the complex issue of mental health

When the Gazette staff first started talking about doing an issue on mental health, we did not know what we were getting into. Mental health is a complex problem and we did not want to oversimplify it.

It’s an unfortunate reality that you, our readers, are at a prime age and space to suffer from depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues and other manifestalions of poor mental health. As students we don’t sleep enough, we often fill our bodies with poisons like alcoho! and drugs, and as young people, we also have to face the intensity of growing up.

Knowing this, there was a lot of tension about our capacity to present the subject in a way that was sensitive and informative while still interesting and thought-provoking. It became clear quite quickly that our entire staff would need to spend time exploring the ethical implications of what we were embarking on. This was not a task we took on lightly, nor was it something we felt could be rushed.

This meant pushing back the issue three weeks. It meant thinking about how readers struggling with mental health would respond to difficult and possibly triggering content. It meant timing this issue with an eye to other factors that impact students’ mental health, such as midterm season and the winter. It meant ensuring that our writers felt supported enough to tackle the complicated subject. Finally, after weeks of research and discussions with professionals in the field, we think we have developed a themed issue that does not trivialize the subject matter nor exalt it.

As journalists, it’s our responsibility to give voice to all sides of an issue and report the truth. It is important that we are aware that subjects we cover may be extremely sensitive. Regarding mental health, situations are often extremely personal, frequently exposing deep held emotions. It was important to us that this issue look not just at people in our community suffering through mental hardship, but also explore what services are available to students and find where there are gaps.

We believe we have found a balance. In the News section, you will find resources for you or friends who may suffer from mental health disorders. In Opinions, you’ll be able to read an informative article on how to improve your mental health through exercise and positive thinking. In Arts and Features you can read a pair of articles about one of our contributors who dealt with depression. In Sports, you’ll find a story comparing stress in Halifax to stress in Toronto. We aim to show that mental health is a real and common problem in our age group and that there are resources available to us.

Most of us have stared mental health in the face at one time in our lives, be it stress from exams, the fallout from a relationship ending or battling through Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter. When our staff first started brainstorming for this issue, many of us shared personal experiences or stories of friends who struggled with mental illness. It’s important for us, as students and classmates, to open up to one another about the struggles we face, so we can deal with them together.

We recognize that this issue deals with a lot of heavy material and we encourage our readers who are suffering from mental health to seek help if any of the content is overwhelming. If you are struggling please seek help from a friend, a family member or a professionaL

Anyone who suspects they or a friend may need immediate help can call the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at 429-8167 or toll free at 1-888-429-8167.

This article was originally published in issue 142-04 on Oct. 2, 2009.

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