Mental illness initiatives healthy at Queen’s

Website launched to help recognize mental illness in individuals; professor develops ways to end stigma

Heather Stuart developed Bell’s five ways to end mental illness stigma.
Heather Stuart developed Bell’s five ways to end mental illness stigma.
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As the conversation around mental illness and stigma continues, Queen’s is part of two initiatives designed to help identify sufferers of and combat stigma around mental illness.

In early December, a Queen’s-specific website was launched to help students, faculty and staff recognize, respond and refer individuals experiencing mental health issues.

The site, “More Feet on the Ground”, is part of a broader collaboration between Brock University and the Council of Ontario Universities and was backed by the province’s Mental Health Innovation Fund.

Ontario universities were invited to take part in the project and comment on the site’s material as it developed. There are currently 19 post-secondary institutions in the province that have their own subsidiary pages.

Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs, said the site is targeted toward the entire university community.

“For some students, it’ll be helpful for themselves personally; for others, it’ll be helpful for them to help a friend; or for faculty and staff to help their students,” she said.

In addition to offering quizzes for people to “self-check” their knowledge, the site provides information on mental health, various disorders, stigma, recovery and details on recognizing, responding to and referring people in need.

While most of the content is shared between the various universities, other components — for example, on-campus resources, contact information and referrals — differ from school to school.

Tierney said the website was a great collaboration among Ontario universities.

“From my point of view, you want to have institutional specific things, but you want to really benefit from, and not re-invent the wheel, when the sector can do something that is shared,” she said.

She said the website complements existing mental health resources on campus and, in particular, adds flexibility and accessibility.

“This gives just another way of getting some mental health training and awareness and information in a flexible environment — flexible for students, faculty and staff — and I think that’s what this particular piece adds,” Tierney said.

The website also complements the national Bell Let’s Talk campaign, which this year will utilize anti-stigma guidelines developed by a Queen’s professor.

Since 2012, Professor of Community Health and Epidemiology Heather Stuart has served as Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair — the only person in the world to hold this post. Stuart’s office is on campus, but her work extends across the country and the globe, including a recent 15-country study on the images of psychiatry and psychiatrists.

The position involves implementation-based research, including looking at anti-stigma work that others are doing and evaluating it to determine toolkits and resources surrounding best practice.

This year’s Let’s Talk campaign by Bell Canada, the fifth annual national conversation about mental health, will include some of Stuart’s ideas.

Bell’s five ways for ending mental illness stigma — language matters; educate yourself; be kind; listen and ask; and talk about it — originated from a Bell public lecture where she co-presented, she said.

The media’s role coupled with research coming from a position like hers makes for “a nice set of bookends,” she said.

“We’ve got the media stuff coming down, creating awareness, giving people things to do, and then we’ve got the grassroots and the community-based coalitions and networks developing.”

She added that it’s important for students to have a voice moving forward with mental health activities on campus.

“I think that the kind of student-led, student-empowered activities are going to be important in the future,” Stuart said, particularly in regards to young men, who she said are less likely to talk about mental health issues.

Queen’s “More Feet on the Ground” website can be accessed at https://queensu.morefeetontheground.ca.

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