Searching for hope after loss of local teen


Mental health issues: they affect everyone. We have all been acquainted with mental health suffering at one point in our lives, be it our own or that of those we love. Unfortunately for some, the weight of mental health struggles can bear too heavily on our emotional, psychological and social well-being. This is how we lost Tanner Unger, a beloved St. Catharines local.

At this difficult time it is important to feel comfortable about conversations regarding mental health. Talking about mental health can be challenging and uncomfortable, but at Brock it does not have to be. In light of this tragedy, students should be reminded of the mental health care services and supports available on campus.

Unlike a burn, scrape or sprain, mental health issues often go unseen; we may not detect them in a friend and sometimes we do not even recognize them in ourselves. This is largely due to the stigma and lack of conversation surrounding mental health. To combat this, Brock offers counseling, workshops and programs to help fight the silence about mental health and to provide assistance for those who need it.

The Open Door program is led by four students in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. The anonymous and confidential program offers one-on-one drop-in support from upper year students. Olivia Janus, a fourth-year Nursing student who runs the program, said the program was implemented on campus to “provide early intervention, mental wellness support and prevention services for Brock students.”

The program features immediate referrals to mental health care resources for students who need it.

“With the most recent death by suicide in St. Catharines, it is important to come together as a community to support mental health,” said Janus.

In addition to Open Door, Brock offers numerous events throughout the year to address issues pertaining to mental health. Mental Health Training is a workshop set to take place on campus on October 27. The goal of this two day workshop is to not only learn how to detect common signs of struggles but to build upon the general knowledge of mental health.

The list of upcoming events surrounding mental health and wellness is nearly endless — ranging from kindness workshops, SafeTALK training, the iconic puppy room and opportunities to encourage students to be social and get outdoors. Furthermore, Brock aims to support students not just by hosting these events, but by providing accessible support each day.

The Student Wellness and Accessibility Services offer services within three areas: Student Accessibility, Personal Counselling and Student Health. Student Accessibility Services is designed to guarantee students an academic environment that meets their physical and mental health needs. Personal Counselling Services provides students with access to trained counsellors who are available to Brock students in person on-campus by appointment, or by phone around the clock. Student Health Services aims to improve student wellbeing by combining mental and physical health care services, such as arrangement for doctors’ notes, concussion protocol and directing students to respective local health clinics.

University can be a difficult time for many of us. It brings on academic, financial, social and physical burdens that can weigh on our mental health — especially when we are forced to make meaningful decisions on our own. These services are put in place to benefit the Brock community but are ineffective if not utilized.

While there are many resources on campus dedicated to mental health support, the reality is that the number of students suffering with mental health issues has skyrocketed in recent years. The subject of suicide and mental health is a complex issue and Brock’s approach to helping students is constantly adapting and expanding.

If you are concerned about the well-being of yourself or a friend you are encouraged to contact any of the above resources. In addition, the Brock University Students’ Union has launched a high-tech approach to support: Mental Health and Wellness mobile app that provides information about mental health care on and beyond campus.

The St. Catharines community has offered words of inspiration at the Burgoyne Bridge reading things such as “you are not alone,” and “I’m happy you exist,” as well as “this isn’t the end of your story.” The tragic loss of Tanner Unger speaks to the undeniable existence of mental health issues and suicide in our community. The mourning community has mobilized to prevent other people from experiencing this in the future by sharing resources for those struggling with mental wellness and ending the silence around mental health.

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