Queen’s student talks mental health at Jack Summit

Federal minister hears concerns from jack.org over counseling services, student culture

Students discuss mental health at Jack Summit.
Credit: 
Supplied by Grace Wedlake

Queen’s student Grace Wedlake attended the annual Jack Summit to discuss mental health before a federal minister.

Wedlake, a graduate student in the first year of her master's program at Queen’s, was one of 12 young adults chosen for their participation in jack.org. The organization seeks to empower young leaders to revolutionize mental health by identifying and dismantling barriers to positive mental health in communities.

Wedlake’s been involved with the organization for five years, which led to the opportunity of discussing mental health with Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas. In a discussion prior to the conference, Wedlake was able to speak with Petitpas about the importance of wellness among grad students and the different regional mental health needs.

Held in Toronto on Mar. 2, the conference invited Petitpas to provide a welcoming address.

In her talk, one of the concerns Wedlake raised was graduate students only have two specific counselors that they can access.

“Outside those two counselors, I found the conversations surrounding grad students are very limited specifically within our individual department, so my hope and goal is to getting conversation going in my specific department,” Wedlake said in an interview with The Journal.

Wedlake said there are a lot of reasons why mental health isn’t openly discussed on campus, one of them being the culture of graduate studies itself.

“There is an expectation that it should be really hard and you are supposed to struggle,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know how to talk about the fact that they are struggling or the fact that they are not doing well in grad school, because there is this expectation that it is supposed to be hard.”

Wedlake also added that graduate students often don’t want to complain or admit they’re struggling because it’s expected their work is difficult and they should feel pressured.

“There should be things that people can do in order to make sure that everything’s okay,” she said.

Her approach to mental health includes being open and honest about the graduate experiences, instead of normalizing the struggles experienced by grad students. 

Similarly, Wedlake pointed out that because everyone comes from different backgrounds, it’s not easy to approach all cases the same way when tackling mental wellness.

“We aren’t all allocated to an equal playing field,” she said. “This can cause us a struggle if we don’t have the resources or ability to pour everything to grad school as some people might.”

While that is the case, Wedlake added that discrimination, poverty, and homelessness also strongly affect mental health on campus. For students experiencing racism and sexism in their daily lives, working towards mental health relief may be a daunting task. 

“We can’t have positive mental health if we don’t have all our basic needs,” she said. “[Racism and sexism] are not okay, so we do need to first address those things in order to make a positive mental health landscape for everyone.”

Corrections

March 15, 2019

This article incorrectly referred to the event as the National Mental Health Conference. In fact, it was the Jack Summit.

The Journal regrets the error.

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