A mental health forum held on March 7 in the JDUC had a low turnout, with only 30 people in attendance. The poor showing prompted concerns that mental health issues are no longer a priority for students.
The empty seats were a frustrating gesture from the student body, the Journal’s Ed Board included. Attention paid to mental health issues may have dwindled, but support for everything ebbs and flows.
The forum was organized by the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, launched in September 2011 following a string of student death. The commission plans to submit a report to Principal Woolf in April outlining the state of mental health on campus.
Holding forums on mental health is an important avenue for gauging student opinion, but the poor turnout for the event points to a breakdown on both sides of the issue.
The forum could have been better marketed by the University.Queen’s administrators continue to struggle in engaging students online. They should have made a Facebook page to advertise.
The mental health forum was an empowering event, one where students got to have their say and impact the commission’s report. It should have been marketed as an empowering event, and not just another town hall meeting others.
It’s also concerning that the commission has been functioning all year and still has yet to draft a report. It’s due next month. There should be a draft circulating so that criticisms can be solicited.
Gathering opinions and information is the first step to making prescriptions for mental health services on campus.
That said, students also have the agency to engage in the process. Student leaders including those in the AMS should have been in attendance, and marketed the forum to their constituents.
Concerns for mental health may have receded for the moment in the place of other issues, like the recent Kony 2012 phenomenon, but it’s a discussion that will always reappear.
Awareness campaigns like Queen’s Wears Green, which happened last October, aren’t practical to run year-long but mental health is always on students’ minds.
Students know all too well how important mental health issues are on this campus. Mental health may be out of the spotlight, but it hasn’t been forgotten.
Let’s hope the Principal’s commission holds another forum, and this time more than 30 people show up.