October 23, 2017
October is Mental Wellness Month at University of Toronto Scarborough, which began with a Mental Health Understood Fair on October 4. The fair was organized by the Health & Wellness Centre and UTSC Mental Health Network.
“The Mental Health Network organizes different awareness events that help U of T Scarborough students learn about coping strategies, how to support them if they are dealing with mental health issues and how to protect their mental wellness,” says Elsa Kiosses, health promotion nurse at the Health & Wellness Centre and coordinator of the fair.
Last year almost 500 students visited the fair. This year students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with mental health resources offered by administrative departments, student groups and community organizations, all of which came together to support mental health awareness.
The fair served as an outreach opportunity for the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre that opened on campus this past summer. The Centre coordinates and delivers education on prevention and response to sexual violence, as well as offering support with: identifying your needs, coordinating appropriate supports, services and accommodations, exploring self-care strategies and discussing safety planning.
One of the many community organizations that were present at the fair was the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). CAMH supports mental health by offering resources and conducting studies to provide tools for students to cope with alcohol addictions. The organization featured a mobile app “Saying When” at the fair, which keeps track of its users’ alcohol intake and lets them see how it affects them over time.
Student Affairs departments and other campus partners showed their support of students’ mental health by donating care packages to the fair. “The students have to visit one department, one student group and one community organization and ask them how that service or group supports mental health. Then they enter to win one of the care packages that were donated by departments on campus” explains Kiosses.
Sneaker Squad was a student group at the fair that holds two weekly walks or runs for students to de-stress, unplug and have fun. It is a one-hour guided walk or run through the valley, which is open to individuals of all fitness and ability levels. Best of all it is free to join and requires virtually no commitment.
The Campus Police play a very important role in responding to mental health-related situations and were also at the fair interacting with students. When dealing with highly sensitive and stressful situations, the main objective of the police is to safely de-escalate them. Positive experience with the police – such as being heard and understood without assumptions – is sometimes all that it takes to resolve a situation and reduce stress.
The fair was part of on-going mental health related events and workshops that are happening throughout October. Mental Wellness Month wraps up on October 31 with a discussion on “Marijuana and Mental Health: Getting into The Weeds” in AA160, from 12-2 p.m. To sign up for the discussion, students can click here.