Most students would respond with a resounding YES!
The constraints of limited budgets, pressures of work-school-life balance, weight of nagging deadlines and looming exams coupled with anxiety, loneliness and other issues make this time of year tough for students.
All of this adds up to a lot of pressure and stress for students in their academic and personal lives. And sometimes, it can become too much.
In recognition of these pressures, last fall the Students’ Association of Red Deer College introduced its 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,” explained SA President Martin Cruz. “Throughout the year we have held a number of awareness campaigns to help students learn about mental health and to try to remove the stigma around mental illness.
“With Mental Health Week, we want to help students relieve stress in a very hands-on fashion while creating a framework where we can all learn about mental health and how to foster good mental health within ourselves, our friends and families and our communities.”
Relieve stress now
Stress, depression, anxiety are an ongoing threat to students’ mental health. According to studies, one in four post-secondary students experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health symptoms. The three most common factors affecting academic performance are stress, sleep difficulties and anxiety.
The Mental Health Initiative is continuing its efforts to give students the tools to deal with mental health stressors and show that there are many ways to deal with stress in a healthy manner. Mental Health Week, which runs March 24 to 28, seeks to give student a week of fun, healthy and soothing activities.
During Mental Health Week, students will be encouraged to give their stresses and worries a physical dimension as they post them on the stress board, set them free on a balloon, pop them in bubble wrap or squash them in playdough. Students will also be reminded of the role of healthy eating in their overall wellness with the fruit tray event and Healthy Sandwich Race.
“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.”
The Mental Health Initiative also brings mental health information to the forefront for students with its Mywelleness program, www.mywellnessplan.ca (select Students’ Association of Red Deer College).
This site has a wide selection of on-campus and off-campus links and resources — ranging from the RDC Counselling & Career Centre to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Red Deer district — to help students become more informed about mental health issues and the services available to them.
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 mystudentplan.ca/reddeer/mywellness, 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.
“Feeling Better Now is an online assessment tool which provides users with an immediate outcome at the end of the survey,” said Cruz, adding that 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.”
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.
“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.”
If you have any questions or suggestions for the Mental Health Initiative, email