Campus groups honoured for anti-stigma efforts

Mental Health Awareness Committee, Peer Support Centre, HCDS and Residence Life receive Human Rights award

The groups behind the anti-stigma workshops were presented with their award in a ceremony last week along with the recipients of two other Equity Office awards.
The groups behind the anti-stigma workshops were presented with their award in a ceremony last week along with the recipients of two other Equity Office awards.
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Supplied by the Queen's News Centre

A student-run anti-stigma collaboration between several campus groups took home the Queen’s Human Rights Initiative Award last week.

The Queen’s Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC) and Peer Support Centre — both groups under the AMS Social Issues Commission — were given the award for their organization of an Anti-Stigma Workshop.

The recipients were presented with their awards at a ceremony on Feb. 28.

MHAC and the Peer Support Centre shared the award with their partners on the project: Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) and Residence Life. Heidi Penning, an equity advisor with the Human Rights and Equity Offices, said the offices felt including students living with mental health issues made the group stand out to the selection committee. “They were inclusive,” she said. “Often programs that are similar to that fail to include members of the group that they’re talking about.”

The workshops, geared towards first-year students, have been presented to about 14 groups in residence so far. They sought to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by discussing proper terminology, what mental health encompasses and by informing students of the different resources available.

There are another four presentations planned for this year.

This year MHAC asked volunteers living with mental illness to share their personal experiences. MHAC Co-Chairs Natalie Munn and Sebastian Gorlewski said that the personal aspect is a crucial part of the workshops.

“Research shows that some of the best ways to reduce the stigma surround mental health is by actually having people share their own personal experience,” Gorlewski said.

The workshop was built off of a program last year through the Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC), but was expanded to include the Peer Support Centre and Queen’s Peer Health Educators.

“I think this is the key component because when student see another student talking to them about their experience it’s not something that’s distant or something that’s ‘othered’ it’s something that everyone experiences,” Munn said.

Munn and Gorlewski came up with the idea for the workshop when they were hired last year.

In the summer, they approached HCDS to ensure they weren’t duplicating any existing programs. From there came the suggestion of including the Peer Health Educators.

The involved groups and volunteers spent last term practicing the different parts of the presentation and pitching the workshop to residence dons. It wasn’t until the end of last term that the groups came together to practice their presentation as a group.

Those involved hope to see the workshop continuing into the future and have a lasting impact. “I think what is great about the collaboration is that it hopefully makes it more sustainable too, because [we] all have that same goal in mind and we can continue to work together towards it,” Munn said. The Human Rights Initiative Award is distributed by the Equity Office each year, along with the Employment Equity Award and the Steve Cutaway Accessibility Award.

The former was awarded to civil engineering professor Mark Green this year, and the latter to Kathy Jackson, undergraduate coordinator for the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

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