On campus club, Active Minds is gearing up to host their annual event, Speak-Out Night which will be held on November 4 in the Pond Inlet at 7:30 p.m.
Six different organizations have come together to organize Speak-Out Night: Active Minds, Student Health Services, Student Justice Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, Student Development Centre, and Niagara Public Health. The goals of this event are twofold as Active Minds coordinators aim to educate students and the Brock community at large about the pressing issue of mental health while also providing support and destigmatization for those who are dealing with these types of disorders.
“The purpose is to really show people that you’re not alone and you’re not in isolation in regards to mental illness. There’s nothing wrong with you. Getting to the other side [of your struggle] is possible and learning how to manage it and how to deal with it is possible,” said Brett Straus, Vice President of Active Minds.
Brianne McMillan, President of Active Minds, also points to the alarming statistic that one in five Canadians suffer from some form of mental health illness today and says that “Stress is a big trigger and causing factor, especially for people around the first year age group.”
Since attending university is so conducive to evoking times of high stress, it’s easy to see why groups like Active Minds are particularly important for any student body. The prevalence of these disorders is in and of itself an issue, but to add to the complexity surrounding mental health is the stigma associated with these issues.
“A lot of people don’t understand it and don’t think it’s real. How can you tell someone you have these things going on in your life if they don’t believe they’re real? And then terms from the past get brought up like crazy, insane and harmful which makes people with these issues seem less than human, like there’s something wrong with them,” said Stephanie Di Matteo, member of Active Minds and a speaker at Speak-Out Night.
Straus concurs with the prevalence of these sentiments and compares mental health problems to the idea of breaking one’s leg.
“If you break your leg you will get sympathy for that. But when you’re having trouble mentally, society doesn’t have that same view. The view is thatyou’re ‘insane’. And the most challenging part of dealing with mental health issues is the lack of acceptance because you can’t make a change until you accept what is actually going on. Stigma puts more of an effect on recovery,” he said.
If you’re a student who isn’t suffering from mental health issues, isn’t aware of anyone who is or feels disengaged with the issue, it’s just as important that you engage in some type of mental health awareness event or education like Speak-Out Night.
McMillan makes it very clear that this event is open to the public and hopes it will be attended by students, faculty and community members alike.
“Mental illness is so common, just because you don’t know someone now it doesn’t mean that somewhere down the road it won’t effect your life. Just having that knowledge is important because there is stigma in society. It’s important to know what’s true and not true about mental illness so that … people who suffer from it don’t also have to deal with the feeling that something is wrong with them on top of their mental health issues,” Straus points out.
For those who are having a hard time dealing with stress or issues related to mental health, the Active Minds members have several suggestions.
“Find something that helps you release stress and stick to keeping that in your life. When stressful times happen doing that thing a lot more is very important,” instructed Di Matteo.
It cannot be overstated that taking care of yourself is extremely important. Talking with friends, taking regular study breaks, exercising and journaling are all fantastic past-times to quell stress in all its forms. However, if these methods aren’t adequate for you, the Student Development Centre in the Schmon Tower offers personal counselling services for all students with no charge. The members at Active Minds urge students that these services are not just for people with diagnoses, they’re for anyone who is suffering from the symptoms of depression, anxiety and so many more mental health issues.
Straus offers an insight into the student mindset which can be helpful in understanding why we place so much stress on ourselves during our university tenure.
“We have this belief that our self-worth is tied to performance and it puts a perfectionist view on ourselves and I can’t stress enough how false that is. Youmay not be succeeding the way you want, either with grades or extracurriculars or whatever it is but it doesn’t mean you’re any less worthy than the next person,” said Straus.
For more information visit the Speak-Out Night event page on Facebook at: facebook.com/events/605805236224882/
Assistant Internal News Editor