Mental Health Awareness Week & why it matters
Mental Health Awareness Week and Why it Matters
By Gemma Fraser, Counsellor, Royal Roads University
With an ever increasing number of Canadians struggling with their mental health, Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for us all to stop, reflect and talk about what it means to be mentally healthy. It is a chance for us to work together on breaking down stigmas and discrimination around mental illness and start to create a greater sense of safety and hope for people who are ill.
The Canadian Mental Health Association clearly articulates the fact that “being mentally healthy isn’t about avoiding problems or trying to achieve a 'perfect' or 'normal' life. It’s about living life well and having the tools to cope with life’s difficult situations and challenges."
For students in particular, life can often present a barrage of difficult challenges and stressors that can threaten their mental well-being. The 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA II) indicated that in Canadian Universities the prevalence of stress and other mental health issues impacted over 50% of students. In many cases this affected their individual academic performance and their ability to flourish.
Often, when one aspect of our health and well-being begins to unwind, the others go with it and stress, depression and anxiety ensues. This impacts a student’s ability to perform optimally at school and in their teams and often has a compounding effect with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, making the situation ever less tenable. The result is often failing grades, withdrawal from classes and lower retention rates. According to the NCHA survey, 89% of all Canadian students had felt overwhelmed at some stage by all they had to do in the preceding 12 months. Royal Roads Counselling Service, Accessibility Services and Financial Aid and Awards continually work to provide support and assistance to many students who are struggling or feeling overwhelmed. However, we suspect we are only scratching the surface of the number of students who could benefit from support and guidance to greater well-being.
Here’s what you can do to help:
1. Know the early warning signs that a student might be in distress:
- Loss of interest or withdrawal from their classes or not showing up to contribute online
- Not being able to complete tasks or assignments
- Serious drop in school performance
- Changes in energy level or appearing more irritable than usual or crying
- Displaying problems with concentration, memory or clear thinking
2. Find out more about some of the services provided by Student Services. Feel free to contact us if you ever have any concerns or questions about how together we might support our students.
Financial Aid & Awards
3. Encourage all students to eat well, exercise, take breaks, get adequate sleep and talk to someone about how they’re feeling.
4. Remember to take care of your own mental health and well-being too.
School is going to be stressful sometimes. Together we can best support students so that they are able to flourish and succeed.