By: David Rowlandson | October 17, 2019
Mental Illness Awareness Week ran during October 6-12. Carrying this theme of awareness forward, we asked Matthew Wensink, Director of Residence Life, some questions on mental health. Matthew is a Mental Health First Aid for Youth instructor and suicide-alertness trainer. He notes that “what I share is my own opinions on this topic based on a combination of my own research and experience working with post-secondary students”.
Who struggles with mental illness and why is it important to be aware of while taking post-secondary education?
Well, everyone does at some point in their lives! You probably have or will from time to time. Just like you might get physically ill now and then, you may also experience mental illness and you don’t need to be afraid of it.
Sometimes it can be tempting to assume certain demographics are more likely to experience mental illness than others. While there may be some truth to this, it doesn’t help if this allows people to think it couldn’t happen to them because they aren’t part of this or that demographic.
With that being said, youth should pay special attention to the feelings and behaviours of themselves and others.
We know that times of transition can (but don’t always) increase symptoms of stress, anxiety and fear, so it’s very important to pay attention to your mental health during this time.
Part of being aware is growing in understanding: how do we better understand mental illness in and as a school community?
There are plenty of good ways to increase your understanding, but there is also plenty of wrong and unhelpful information out there, too. The resources below are a great place to start. Talk to each other about them, attend trainings we offer (SafeTALK, MHFA), and participate in forums and meetings in the Hamilton community.
How do students help one another prevent mental illness from occurring or to provide encouragement when it does? What does it mean to be “aware”?
Think about how you help one another avoid physical illnesses. This can look like eating balanced meals together, playing physical activities together, encouraging good sleep and avoiding harmful behaviours. Similar with mental illnesses, this can look like encouraging each other to rest well, paying attention to when pressure to hang out is unhelpful, take breaks in your studies and have a social life that allows others to know you deeply. But just as we can’t prevent everyone from getting sick, we can’t prevent every single person from experiencing mental illness, either.
When I’m meeting with Residence Life staff, I like to ask them if there is anyone in their life who knows absolutely everything about them. I’ve noticed that this can be a huge factor in determining someone’s wellness. If there is someone in close proximity to you who knows what your “normal” is, they can help you determine when you’re not well. I think that gets at what it means to be aware – determining what is unusual or disordered for that person.
What resources are available to students?
There are plenty of resources available to students. Speaking anecdotally, I attend therapy sessions on a regular basis and find this tremendously beneficial. I’ll list resources below, but also encourage students to come by our office if they’re looking for more. If you’re not feeling well, please reach out to someone you trust.
Residence Life staff
The Residence Life staff are trained in mental health first aid and suicide alertness. Listed below are two starting-point resources for students.
Christian Counselling Centre
The Christian Counselling Centre (CCC) brings God’s biblical wisdom to the professional field of counselling. To book a session, go to christiancounsellingcentre.ca/book-a-session.html
Shalem Mental Health Network
Shalem Mental Health Network provides students with fully qualified, Masters-level counsellors. Shalem consists of Christian counsellors who welcome conversations of spirituality into topics of mental illness. To schedule an appointment directly: 905-528-0353
And keep in touch with the Crown! Further mental health articles to come: student, professional, and Residence Life voices that hope to broaden Redeemer’s understanding of mental health and make a pathway to community wellness.