Let’s Talk Mental Health preview event takes campus

Department of Health Sciences hosts mental health discussions 

Department of Health Sciences and Bell Let’s Talk co-hosted “Let’s Talk Mental Health.”
Credit: 
Photo by Emily Walker

The Department of Health Sciences and Bell Let’s Talk co-hosted “Let’s Talk Mental Health” in Mitchell Hall’s Rose Innovation Hub on Tuesday.

The event featured a conversation on the realities of mental health at Queen’s with an audience that included undergraduate and graduate students, post-graduate fellows, staff, and professors. It was one of many events happening on campus to mark Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 30.

University Rector Alex da Silva, ConEd ’20, opened the event by stressing the importance of a continued mental health discussion on campus and thanking Bell Canada for their support.

“One of my general frustrations every year, leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day, is that it’s kind of a one off, and, as every student on this campus knows, mental health isn’t,” da Silva told The Journal in an interview.

The discussion featured four panelists—psychologist Arunima Khanna, and students Constantina Venetis, Jake Bradshaw, and Tom Ellison–who were selected at the recommendation of various student mental health groups on campus for their advocacy. 

Following the event, the panelists shared their takeaways from the discussion with The Journal.

Khanna, a psychologist at Student Wellness Services, specialized in diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, reaffirmed the importance of community while managing mental health.

“A caring community goes a long way towards mental health and wellness, so take some time to foster connections especially with your peers who seem to be isolated,” Khanna said.

This idea was echoed by Venetis, Comm ’20 and co-chair of the Queen’s Commerce Mental Health Association.

“Today's event allowed people to recognize that Queen's is a community, and successful community members lean on each other for support. [Don’t] be afraid to reach out to that friend, professor, or [residence] don who is approachable and you want some advice from,” Venetis said.

Bradshaw, PPE ’20, is co-chair of the Jack.org Queen’s Chapter, and believes the event should set a new precedent for mental health advocacy on campus.

“[It’s] often challenging for students to have their voices heard, and this event was a great opportunity for students to share ideas as well as concerns about wellness on campus. That being said, we need to continue having these conversations on a more regular basis and I hope that the success of this event will lead to more in the future,” Bradshaw said.

The panelists took turns sharing their own experiences, from personal stories to tips for managing mental health. Venetis also shared a poem she’d written about her journey to recovery.

Queen’s Professor and Bell Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research, Dr. Heather Stuart, moderated the event. She asked questions of the audience, allowing them to share their experiences with mental health and solutions to common issues facing students, faculty, and staff.

The feedback from the discussion will be used to help the Mental Health Commission of Canada develop a national standard for the promotion of student mental health, according to Stuart.

Stuart’s role with Bell Let’s Talk helps facilitate the yearly event, which raises awareness about the need for ongoing discussions around mental health. It has an impact: last year, Bell Let’s Talk and The Rossy Family Foundation contributed a joint $1 million to the nation-wide initiative, which aims to determine and publicize the best practices for Canadian post-secondary institutions to support the success of their students.

In her statement to The Journal, Stuart spoke about the results of the event.

“This year's event [was] a more intimate dialogue on mental health on campus,” Stuart wrote. “We are looking to get the students more involved in the conversation.”

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