Student groups advocate for mental health

QCMHA and WiSE working within their faculties

QCMHA hopes to take an intersectional approach to advocacy.

In the Smith School of Business, the Queen’s Commerce Mental Health Association (QCMHA) is working to engage students in mental health advocacy. The club is co-chaired by Avina Patel and Maddie Poutissou, both Comm ’23.

“At a high level, the mandate and mission of our club is to work towards destigmatizing mental health and engaging in mental health conversations within the Commerce program and beyond,” Patel said in an interview with The Journal

Founded in 2018, the organization works to bring the perspectives and voices of students in the Commerce program to the administration. QCMHA takes an equity focus when it comes to understanding issues marginalized student groups may face when accessing mental health supports. 

“One thing that we started this year was providing resources that were specific to different types of groups, whether that be BIPOC or LGBTQ+,” Poutissou said in an interview with The Journal

“As we know, with mental health, everyone has a personal relationship with it that’s different. Though we are trying to provide resources for the Commerce community and beyond […], we do understand that everyone will experience mental health differently.”

The QCMHA co-chairs believe having a faculty-based mental health advocacy club is vital to ensure their communities have their mental health needs met. 

“I feel like it is beneficial to have clubs that focus within each of the programs about mental health,” Poutissou said. “Because an engineer and a Commerce student aren’t going to have the same experience with Queen’s—that’s something that we need to highlight.”

As it stands, there’s no Engineering Society (EngSoc) club that has a specific focus on student mental health. This leaves clubs like WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) to fill the gap in student advocacy. 

“We have a podcast called How to be WiSE,” Joelle Lintang, ArtSci ’23 and incoming vice-president (internal) of WiSE, said in an interview with The Journal.

“We talk mostly about [women leaders in STEM industries’] journey […] and what they did and how we don’t always take the same straight path that everyone usually thinks to do.”

According to Lintag, traditional roles assigned to women in STEM fields—often administrative—can be harmful to students’ mental health and learning. Mentorship opportunities made available by WiSE are actively designed to support these students.

“WiSE has an internship program which connects undergraduate students at Queen’s to women in the industry. By making these connections, we hope that undergraduate students are given the support, advice, and encouragement they need to successfully pursue a future career in STEM,” Sydney Brownlee, Sci ’23 and incoming president of WiSE, said in an interview with The Journal

When asked about the importance of student engagement in mental health advocacy, both Patel and Poutissou said students must use their voices and have conversations. 

“It’s extremely important to have leaders that are going to stick up for our problems. We have students that are working bottom-up who see the gaps but are having trouble getting to the people in power that are ultimately going to make decisions,” Poutissou said. 

“If I could say anything about our academic institutions, it’s that, in light of the recent events in the past two years, our leadership needs to listen to concerns and act quickly. Not only act quick [sic] but work together and be compassionate.”


EngSoc, Mental health, Smith, STEM, women

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