Letter to the editor

Social support must be a focus

Dear Editors,

It’s easy to say there should be more mental health resources at Queen’s, or that counselling services should be expanded to better meet the demands of the student population.

Maybe this is true, but it’s also easy to overlook the most powerful means of coping with mental illness and maintaining mental health: social support.

Speaking from my own experiences with mental illness, resources and professional help are invaluable to someone in a crisis, but accessing and consistently utilizing this help is near impossible without the support of friends and family. This is where your role as an everyday student comes into play. By being there for your friend in need you can become an integral part of their recovery process.

It sounds simple enough to accomplish this, but there is a subtle obstacle that prevents students from reaching out to someone they think may be struggling with a mental illness. We’re unsure of whether something is actually wrong, whether what’s wrong is in fact related to mental health, how we even begin to approach someone or what to say and whether it’s even our place to say anything at all.

A lot of the complication stems from the sense of shame that individuals with a mental illness feel because their illness is mental and not physical. As an educated university population, I’d like to think that most of us feel there is no reason for the shame associated with mental illness, but then why does it persist?

As much as we advocate for mental health on campus and resources to help those in need, when it comes down to dealing with mental health issues in our everyday lives or approaching someone with a mental illness, there is still a level of discomfort.

As part of the Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC), we’re dedicated to establishing a support system of students helping students on campus. Through education of common mental illnesses we hope to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and help students become more aware of the role they can play in supporting a friend.

We want to emphasize the role of positive psychology in our everyday lives as students. On Feb. 7 and 8, join us in Common Ground to write a message to your close friends telling them how much you value them as a person and what impact they’ve had on your life. The message of continued support for each other no matter what we go through can be equally as effective as all the mental health resources combined.

Natalie Munn, ArtSci ’13,
Mental Health Awareness Committee

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