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“1 in 4” event showcases prevalence of mental health diagnoses on campus

Students take part in “1 in 4” in front of Stauffer Library on Wednesday.
Students take part in “1 in 4” in front of Stauffer Library on Wednesday.
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Roughly a quarter of Queen’s students were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2012, a statistic that led students to rally for mental health awareness on campus.

Students gathered outside of Stauffer Library on Wednesday to participate in the “1 in 4” event hosted by the Queen’s Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC).

The rally was part of the wider national movement of Mental Health Awareness Week, which was first implemented by the Canadian Psychiatric Association in 1992.

MHAC, the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kingston (CMHA) and the AMS Peer Support
Centre made a joint effort to organize the rally.

Student volunteers, dressed in black clothing, lined up along University Ave. while passing out education material.

One out of every four wore a green shirt to represent a student with a mental illness.

Isabelle Harris, promotions coordinator for MHAC, said the visual element of the display
will cause students to remember the statistic of “1 in 4”.

“The point of [the event] is to get people talking about the topic of mental health, and get people more educated,” Harris, ArtSci ’14, said.

“I would like everyone to start learning more about [mental health] and reduce the stigma.”

Harris said the creation of the event itself made an impact — a student had shared their experience dealing with mental illness to one of their professors, who then promoted the event in class.

“If one person walks away feeling more comfortable to discuss this topic, and not feeling like there is a stigma, [it’s] what really matters,” she said.

Harris, whose siblings have suffered from bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse, said that she has witnessed a greater student effort to learn about mental health issues.

However, she said, there remains much to be done.

“There will always be people who know they are suffering from something, but we are still trying to figure out how to get those people comfortable enough to go and approach someone for help,” she said.

Dr. Mike Condra, director of Health, Counseling and Disability Services (HCDS), spoke at the event, touching on the progress the University has made in regards to mental health over the past 20 years.

“It’s important that young people remember that people of my generation lived in a world where we didn’t talk about mental health,” he said.

“It’s a huge change.”

Condra said that the HCDS has spoken to over 6,000 Queen’s community members
concerning mental health over the last six years.

“Mental illness can be an extremely lonely experience,” he said, adding that it’s important to reach out to those who may appear to be suffering.

“Make sure you’re familiar with resources that are available [like the] Peer Support
Centre, HCDS so that if your friend needs someone to talk to, you know how to help them,” he said.

Kiersten Forkes, a volunteer at the event, was drawn to participate given her own personal
experience with mental health.

“Even trying to get help last year, I felt that there was a lot of stigma by choosing to go to the HCDS,”
she said.

“[It’s important] to make people more aware how prevalent mental illness is on campus, one in four is a pretty high statistic so it’s not something to be embarrassed or ashamed about.”

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