York U’s Let’s Talk Mental Health promotes healthy campus with multiple events

York U Let's Talk Mental Health poster

As part of York’s Mental Health and Wellness Strategy and to mark Mental Health Awareness Month in February, the University is holding its third annual York U Let’s Talk Mental Health with multiple events starting in January and continuing through February to engage the community and promote a healthy campus.

“York University is committed to promoting a mentally healthy campus for all students, faculty and staff, fostering student academic success and a better workplace,” says York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “Together, we can create a healthy, supportive campus where everyone can fulfill their potential.”

York U Let's Talk Mental Health poster 2015York’s Mental Health and Well­ness strategy is built on three foundational pillars – health and wellness promotion, facilitation of care and support, and collaboration and discussion.

York U’s Let’s Talk Mental Health kicks off on Wednesday, Jan. 28 with two events. Health Education and Promotion and Active Minds at York University, organizations focused on providing education and resources about mental health, as well as reducing stigma through peer outreach, will have information tables in Vari Hall from 10:30am to 2pm. York’s Centre for Human Rights, as part of its Inclusion Day Conference, will present lunch keynote speaker Lynne Keane at the Underground Restaurant from 11:30am to 12:45pm. An author and former broadcast journalist, Keane has dedicated her life since the sudden passing of her son Daniel in 2009 to educating about the underlying causes of depression and the importance of treating mental illness. Her work has appeared in the National Post, The Globe & Mail, CBC and CTV. Her memoir, Give Sorrow Words, has been widely praised by psychologists, parents and the mental health community. To register for this free event, visit: www.yorku.ca/rights

On Thursday, Jan. 29, from 5:30 to 8:30pm in Founders College Assembly Hall 152 Founders College, Active Minds at York University and the International Bipolar Foundation present The Struggle is Real: Learn, Talk, Feel, a free symposium on mental health and overcoming difficulties associated with having a mental illness. The symposium will feature talks by various mental health professionals from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, a personal story on mental illness and a meditation session hosted by Healthy Student Initiative. A light dinner will also be served at no cost to all attendees. All York University students and their friends and family are welcome to attend. All those interested in attending are asked to register at the following Eventbrite link: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-struggle-is-real-learn-talk-feel-tickets-15045708118

Student reads on bench at York U“Mental wellness is integral to the academic success, employee well-being and overall productivity within the university community,” says Lesley Beagrie, master of Stong College and co-chair of York’s Mental Health Steering Group. “We all work, learn and share our environment with others, and need to provide a place of safety and support for each other.”

According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment of Ontario universities, more than 88 per cent of York students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do within the last 12 months, while others cited overwhelming anxiety (56.7 per cent) or felt so depressed it was difficult to function (42.1 per cent). In the same survey, more than 60 per cent of respondents felt their academic work has either been traumatic or difficult to handle within the last 12 months. Of the factors impacting academic performance, stress was the leading factor (43.4 per cent), followed by sleep difficulties and anxiety (27 per cent each), and then internet use/computer games (24.5 per cent) and depression (20 per cent).

With respect to York faculty and staff, 40 per cent of long-term disability claims have a mental health component.

The Mental Health & Wellness at York website was launched in 2013 to provide information and support for students, staff and faculty with a list of on- and off-campus resources.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities, recently launched Good2Talk, a new bilingual, confidential and anonymous helpline. Through Good2Talk, Ontario’s postsecondary students can receive professional counselling, mental health information and referrals to resources on and off campus, 24/7/365.

Collaboration and discussion is essential to a healthy campus and York’s Mental Health Steering Group invites members of the York community to share tips for maintaining good mental health to http://mhw.info.yorku.ca/five-ways-to-wellbeing/. All submissions will receive a Five Ways to Wellbeing bookmark and a special Mental Health & Wellness at York pen. The best entry will receive a $50 Starbucks gift card. The winning entry will be announced March 31.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on mental health, as well as information about activities to promote a healthy campus, throughout the months of February and March. More information, activities and updates are also readily available on the Mental Health & Wellness at York website.