Wellness Week takes aim at social stigma

Photo - Brett Nielsen

Photo – Brett Nielsen

Mental health a priority for URSU

“Pop the Stigma,” the second annual Mental Wellness Week, represents a recent change in the public dialogue around mental health. The week aims to start a conversation about mental health, a conversation that has been silenced by long-standing social stigmas surrounding mental health.

Lynn Barber, Vice President of External Affairs for the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU), says the main aim of the week this year is “education, so that you can recognize and understand what to do should you experience mental illness.”

“I think it’s especially important, since [students] are a demographic that is at increased risk. As well, starting the conversation so people feel safe reaching out is a goal this year.”

Mental Wellness Week is primarily funded through university faculties and departments. Leftover funds will be added to the Emotional Wellness Fund, which was created by URSU in a recent bylaw update.

The fund offers up to $500 to each student, or five services each semester. Services included in the bylaw are “counseling services, physical and non-physical wellness classes, and professional psychology services.” Application will be through the Student Advocate, and will remain confidential.

Barber says that the fund can be used for a variety of things: “art classes, gym classes, external counseling, whatever you think you need to help you feel emotionally well.”

In contrast to the emergency bursary fund, the Emotional Wellness Fund will be available to students regardless of their financial situation. According to Barber, “demonstrating need won’t be financial. By going to the advocate, you are basically demonstrating that you feel you need the fund to support your emotional well-being. We want the fund to be more open, we don’t want people turned away.”

During Mental Wellness Week, a number of activities are available for students. “What we tried to do was have meditation or yoga in the morning, workshops at lunch and then a more social activity in the evenings,” says Barber. “It’s really exciting, because the workshop leaders and speakers come right from the University faculty.”

One workshop, entitled “Write it Out,” focuses on expressing emotions, and finding a channel for emotions. It will be held Tuesday at noon in the URSU boardroom.

Other workshops look at healthy relationships, and how to spot dangerous signs in relationships. Barber stressed her support of these types of workshops.

“In university you are starting to get into those more serious relationships, and it’s important to know what healthy relationships look like, and what they don’t look like, and where you can get help.”

On Friday, a town hall will be held in the Rainbow Pit from 1-3:30pm, allowing students to offer feedback on the U of R’s counseling services.

Students support the event wholeheartedly. First-year biology student Kenda Mullock says, “Mental Health Week is the start of something big. It’s 2016 — lets start talking about mental health, already. If we can openly talk about breaking a bone or catching a cold, why can’t we talk about what’s going on in our mind?”

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