New SA initiative aims to foster positive mental health

Tuition. Good marks. Deadlines. Loneliness. Career choices. Rent. Exams. Anxiety. Problems sleeping. Students can face a lot of pressure and stress in their academic and personal lives. And sometimes, it can become too much.

In recognition of these pressures, the Students’ Association has introduced a new Mental Health Initiative aimed at promoting a positive atmosphere in which mental health can be explored and enhanced. The initiative is supported by funding from the Alberta Campus Mental Health Initiative Fund (ACMHI).

“We want to help give students the tools to take care of themselves,” said SA President Martin Cruz. “Throughout the year we are going to hold a number of awareness campaigns to help students learn about mental health and to try to remove the stigma around mental illness.

“We are kicking off the Initiative with Mental Health Awareness Week: MyWellness during MyMidterms from Nov. 14 to 22. Expect to see lots of stress-relieving activities ranging from letting your stress fly away on a paper airplane to a mediation session and maybe even some furry friends.”

The Mental Health Initiative will bring mental health information to the forefront for students, with the objective of helping the campus community identify the role of mental health in an individual’s well-being. Cruz said the initiative will promote the supports available to students both on campus and in Red Deer.

“We will also be promoting Feeling Better Now, an online assessment tool which provides users with an immediate outcome at the end of the survey,” said Cruz, adding Feeling Better Now is the only mental health assessment tool for students accredited by the Canadian College of Family Physicians. “Students can take their results to a doctor, a counselor or other medical professional. We believe this allows students to respond to their situation from an empowered position and allows them to take an active and informed roll in their care.”

Feeling Better Now

Imagine its 3 a.m. and you are not feeling well. It’s the middle of the night and it feels like there is no one to call.

You remember hearing about the Feel Better Now tool. You grab your phone or tablet head to, click on the Feeling Better Now link and within 20 minutes you have a preliminary assessment of your emotional and mental health and can start mapping your road to wellness.

“We believe this is a innovative program,” said Cruz, adding the MyWellness site also includes links to services and supports available on campus, within the larger community and online. “We believe this is one of the few tools which enables students to receive an assessment of their mental and emotional health anywhere, anytime, when the need arises.”

Students who are at high risk are provided with online tools to help them and their physician identify and treat emotional and mental health problems using medical best practices. The student and their physician receive a patient-specific risk map indicating the severity of the condition; a patient-specific care map to assist them in the detection, treatment and follow up of emotional and mental health problems; and follow up maps every three weeks to track progress and recovery.

“This tool will enable students who previously were unable — or unwilling — to make an appointment for mental health screening to access the help they need,” said Cruz. “At its ultimate, this tool could help ease strain on the emergency health system as mental health concerns could be treated before becoming emergencies.”

MyWellness during MyMidterms

What do bubble wrap, paper airplanes, dogs, hugs and a ball pit have in common? Stumped?

Individually — or together — these things can help reduce stress and anxiety for most people. And they will all be a part of MyWellness during MyMidterms.

“One in four post-secondary students experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health symptoms,” explained Cruz. “According to studies, the three most common factors affecting academic performance are stress, sleep difficulties and anxiety. We want to help change that for RDC students so we are holding the first-ever Mental Health Awareness Week – a week full of fun and soothing activities.”

The week kicks off Thursday, Nov. 14 with Mental Health Awareness Day where students will be able to create their own ‘stress balls’ and throw their anxiety away in a real way.

“The slogan for Mental Health Awareness Day is ‘Stressed is desserts spelled backwards’,” said VP Student Life Jhymylyn Miranda. “We want to show RDC students there are many way to relieve stress in a healthy manner. In addition, we want to raise awareness and reach out to students to show there is support on campus for mental health issues. These individuals are not alone in their struggles, and it is important they get help.”

The rest of the week will also focus on stress management, relaxation and promoting health and wellness services available to students . Each day various health and wellness-related services will be joining the SA in the Forum.

• Thursday, Nov. 14 – Mental Health Awareness Day: sip on a cup of Jiggle Juice, create your own ‘stress ball’; Forum, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

• Friday, Nov. 15 – Hot Chocolate Day: serve yourself up a cup of hot chocolate and make a friend; Main Hallway, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 18 – Dog/Puppy Room: De-stress with a few furry friends; sign up in the Forum

• Tuesday, Nov. 19 – Balloon & Bubble Wrap Day: Let all your stresses fly away and pop your way to happiness today; Forum, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Wednesday, Nov. 20 -Yoga & Mediation Day, Forum (Yoga) and Meditation Room (meditation); 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Thursday, Nov. 21 – DSB Mental Health Awareness: Balloon and Bubble Wrap station; DSB, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Friday, Nov. 22 – Mental Health Awareness Week wraps up with Random Act of Kindness Day, a Free Hug Campaign, Take a Seat/Make A Friend; Forum, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Hopefully a fun, open approach to mental health and stress will help students relax and begin to discuss their worries, anxieties and concerns,” said Cruz. “We want to foster an environment where there is no stigma surrounding mental illness and where people are comfortable accessing the services they need.”