Stigma on Campus

How students’ initiatives are helping to end it

by Gabrielle Lesage, Summer Student

As an individual, I understand how stressful and overwhelming it is to expose oneself completely to others. As a young adult in society, I know how daunting it is to show our true selves to the world. As a university student, I comprehend why it is difficult for a person such as myself to open up and let others know about certain private things I am going through. When I was a member of the organizing committee of Mental Health and Wellness Week at the beginning of the year at Bishop’s University, one thing that I remember someone mentioning that stuck with me was that students were embarrassed to go see the counsellor or the school psychologist to discuss issues about their mental health because they were embarrassed about what others would think about them; these students would deprive themselves of services that would benefit them because they felt a sort of shame. This stayed with me, even to this day, because I truly believe that one should not prevent themselves from benefitting from services that can help them because of the fear of the judgment of others.

Students in campuses all over Canada are working to make this change. Jack.Org, a youth lead organization that aims to end the stigma associated with mental illnesses and promote mental health, has Chapters all over the country, with students coming together and planning initiatives in order to normalize mental health and mental illness. These students are working hard to end stigma, and by doing so are changing the way students perceive various mental health issues such as anxiety. The following are some examples of what these student leaders are doing at their schools:

    1. Bishop’s University: A group of dedicated students organized a Build Your Own Exam Survival Pack during the final examination period in the month of April. Students who attended the event had the chance to make their own stress ball and fill up a bag with goodies like crayons, erasers, and candy. The organizers even encouraged students to build packs for their friend or roommate, and many did! The event was a success, and students thanked the Jack.Org UBishop’s Chapter for putting together an event that brought students together and said “Many people go through exam anxiety, and other issues as well, and that is okay’ you are not alone”. Needless to say, the event was a hit and will be done again during each end of semester examination periods. Their Facebook page can be found HERE.

 

    1. York University: The members of Jack.Org YorkU created a “Wall of Awesome” in one of the school walls. Students were encouraged to post up a post-it note with what they feel is awesome, and also words of encouragement for others. This initiative was a hit, with many students participating and posting notes. Their Facebook page can be found HERE.

 

  1. King’s University: At the beginning of the school year, the school’s Jack Chapter planned a stand in one of the school’s lobbies that was all about New Year’s resolutions. These ranged from taking care of yourself, to helping others, and resolutions involving mental health. Students also had the chance to learn tips on how to manage stress. Their Facebook page can be found HERE.

There are many student-lead initiatives that are organized all over Canada, and it is encouraging and inspiring to see that these students are all working towards a common goal; to end the stigma associated with mental illness. The hard work that these students do demonstrates the passion and drive that young people have to make their campus, and the world, a better place. Perhaps one day students will no longer be embarrassed to walk in the offices of the student counsellor and school psychologist with fear of judgment of others. This would revolutionize campuses all across Canada, and even around the world. Because in the end, don’t we want a world without stigma?