The University of Regina Students Union is hoping Mental Health Awareness Week will help students get the help they need.
Shawn Wiskar, URSU president, helped organize the weeklong event and said students are struggling with things like mental health and financial stress.
“Conversations around how to mitigate mental health crises, but also how to seek out the help you need is an essential conversation,” said Wiskar.
The event, which runs Feb. 5-8, features panel discussions and a lineup of speakers focusing on mental health.
Jermain McKenzie, URSU Vice President of Students Affairs, said services at the U of R need to be more diverse and accessible to everyone.
“I think we have 15 per cent international students, and about 15 per cent Indigenous students,” said McKenzie. “I think the university has to accept that its structure is very colonial, and that there is still a lot of that residue remaining and that there has been racism exhibited across campus.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by some sort of mental illness or disorder. There are currently 15,568 students at the U of R.
Wiskar and McKenzie agree the university is taking steps in the right direction by putting more money into counselling services and hiring more staff. Wiskar hopes the university can somehow put even more resources into counselling services to keep up with the demand.
“I think if we had more money put into counselling services, but also into mental health research, students on our campus wouldn’t necessarily need to struggle for as long as some of them do,” said Wiskar.
“We need to have a more encompassing look of how many of them are struggling, what some of the issues are, as well as transparency around students who come from international domains or just don’t come from the city of Regina. How does moving to a new city where there’s basically all new people for the first time really affect you and what kind of supports can we offer to these students who may feel really isolated and alone sometimes.”
Wiskar and McKenzie hope that with these events students will know they are not alone with any mental health problems they are having and it helps them to reach out for any help they need.
Ian MacAusland–Berg, a psychologist at counselling services and a psychology professor at the university, helps students with everything from depression and anxiety to relationship problems. MacAusland–Berg believes there is a stigma around mental health and getting help.
“We see things as a personal weakness whenever something has been seen as psychological … everybody understands a malfunctioning heart,” said MacAusland–Berg “Fewer people understand anxiety, depression, PTSD,”
“Don’t be ashamed … you’re not bothering anybody. A lot of students will say ‘Well, it’s little, I don’t want to bother anybody.’ I would rather somebody come in when it’s little; it’s much easier to take care of than when it’s big.”
Over the last four years counselling services, which are on the second floor of the Riddell Centre, have changed the way things are done to accommodate needs. They still do one-on-one sessions but, have started scheduling group sessions for students who may not need them. Students can also meet a peer group going through the same thing. To accommodate rising needs there are drop-in sessions Tuesdays, 1-4 p.m. and on Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to noon.
There are no charges for any sessions and students do not have a limit for how many sessions they can attend.
A few of the main activities include: Art With Impact, showcasing movies about mental health 4-6 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Riddell Multi-Purpose Room followed by a discussion; Jim Demeray from Understand US will be speaking at 5 p.m. in The Owl on Feb. 6; a Wascana Lake Hike starting at 3 p.m. at the Kiskik Tower Multi-Purpose Room on Feb. 7; and Sonalee, The Fat Sex Therapist, will be talking about mental health and body image at 6 p.m. Feb 8 in the Riddell Centre Multi-Purpose Room.