All Posts Tagged With: "mental health"
#Movember is about more than just charity
I have never really been a guy. I’ve always been male but I’ve never been “one of the guys.”
I can’t help but yawn during prolonged football and soccer games. My eyes glaze over midway through feverish discussions about the newest Dodge Ram. When asked by a server what kind of beer I’d like, I usually wait for a friend to make his request before I add, “make that two.”
Though I find myself outside the realms of frat houses and basement lairs, there is one time of year when these distinctions seem to fade into the background. It doesn’t matter that I can’t manage a video game combo or bench press my weight. One month of the year, all that is secondary.
That month is Movember.
The last thing students need is fewer days on campus
For the first time this fall, a majority of Ontario universities have scheduled a break from classes in either October or November. Students have been pushing for this over the past few years as a way to improve mental health and several schools, from Ryerson to Western, have given in. The idea is that a fall break will help students cope with the high workload of university, leaving them less likely to get stressed, depressed or anxious.
A break may indeed temporarily lift spirits and improve mental health but further diminishing the amount of time they’re expected to show up may also make it harder for them to cope in the long run—especially if they get full-time jobs where they’re expected to show up five days a week.
Showing up to the same place at the same time each day is a skill and it’s one that universities aren’t taking seriously enough if they think they can drop even more days from their schedules.
Suicide prevention stepped up from Nova Scotia to BC
VICTORIA – When Tad Milmine walks into a classroom, students don’t know anything about him.
They don’t know he’s an RCMP officer. They don’t know he’s gay. They don’t know he’s been bullied and abused.
But within minutes, students know he’s there for them, especially in their darkest, most vulnerable moments, Milmine said.
He speaks to them through the spirits of Ontario’s Jamie Hubley, Nova Scotia’s Rehtaeh Parsons and British Columbia’s Amanda Todd — all teen suicide victims mercilessly bullied by their peers before killing themselves. Todd died one year ago Thursday.
“I’m up there, just a guy named Tad,” said the Surrey, B.C., RCMP officer during an off-duty interview. “That’s how I get introduced. While I’m speaking they don’t even know I’m a police officer until about halfway through.”
Milmine said he started talking to students across Canada last October, at about the same time the country was emotionally shaken by Todd’s suicide.
The 15-year-old, Grade 10 student from Port Coquitlam, B.C., posted a video detailing her anguish over the sustained harassment she endured at school and on the Internet about images of her body posted on the Internet.
At one point in Todd’s video, which now has received over 28 million views, she holds up a handwritten note that says, “I have nobody. I need someone.”
Calls are free, private
A new 24-hour-a-day mental health help line for Ontario college and university students is up and running. Good2Talk is free, anonymous and staffed by professional counsellors who can connect students to local resources. The service is delivered in part by Kids Help Phone and the Ontario Centre for Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health. The number to call is 1-866-925-5454.
Liberal leader makes an important distinction
Justin Trudeau, a man who wants to be prime minister, told The Huffington Post that his first experience with cannabis was at an Amsterdam café at the age of 18. A friend of his bought hash and they tried to heat it with a candle.
“It was just a total disaster,” he said, seemingly alluding to the fact that he couldn’t get high rather than any regrets about using drugs. Since then, he says, he used marijuana five or six times, most recently three years ago at a pool party at his house where someone passed around a joint.
Since saying earlier this year that he supports legalization and regulation of marijuana to keep it out of the hands of children, the Liberal leader has been mocked by people who don’t think asking for ID is a good strategy for stopping teens for doing what they please. (See: teenage drinking)
This professor is troubled by a lack of resilience
A new report about the state of health among Canadian university students has prompted the usual hand-wringing in the media. The Montreal Gazette, for instance, calls the findings “troubling” and “grim” and notes that many university students feel overwhelmed, anxious, and in some cases, suicidal.
Even without seeing the report, one might be skeptical of such reactions. After all, take any large survey of people and you are going to find some who are having a rough go of it. And given that university students tend to be younger, experiencing big life transitions, and under pressure to perform at a high level, a certain number of cracks in the foundation are to be expected.
But when I looked at the statistics for myself, I too was troubled. Just not for the reasons that everyone else is. I was struck not by how many students are having difficulty, but, rather, by how many of them are not.
Analyzing the biggest-ever Canadian student health survey
The results of the biggest-ever survey of Canadian post-secondary student health show that most students are stressed, anxious and drink alcohol, but they’re not having nearly as much sex or doing as many drugs as one might expect.
Those are the conclusions that jump out from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services report released today. A total of 34,039 students from 32 schools filled out the National College Health Assessment II Spring 2013, which is the basis of the report. The response rate was an impressive 20 per cent.
Drinking is students’ most common vice. In the previous 30 days, 71 per cent of students reported drinking alcohol at least once.
However, the vast majority avoided other drugs: only 12 per cent smoked a cigarette, 16 per cent used marijuana and 11 per cent consumed other drugs. That was despite eight in 10 students “perceiving” that the “typical student” at their school had used marijuana and cigarettes.
Actress talks mental health at Queen’s University
Recognized with an honorary degree from Queen’s University for her work in mental health, a humble Glenn Close used her time in the spotlight to pay tribute to others affected by mental illness — including members of her own family.
The award-winning actress was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws on Thursday during a convocation for graduates of the faculty of arts and science.
Prior to her speech, Close told reporters that the honorary degree meant “a great deal” because she was receiving it on behalf of her whole family.
It was a sentiment she echoed in her impassioned address to the Class of 2013, when Close spoke lovingly of her sister Jessie Close, who has bipolar disorder, and nephew Calen Pick, who lives with schizoaffective disorder (a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder).
“I really wouldn’t be here today without them,” Close told the assembled gathering at Grant Hall. “We have learned that mental illness is a family affair.”
Students connect through Potter clubs and classes
Two summers ago when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 arrived at the cinema in Ancaster, Ont., Stephanie Kesler took the day off work and lined up for 12 hours to make sure she got a good seat. Afterward, Kesler, now 23, says she felt “a little bit sad.” Growing up she had eagerly anticipated each of J.K. Rowling’s books and films. “That was my whole childhood.”
But last semester, the third-year English student at Western University in London, Ont., realized that the end of the series didn’t mean saying goodbye. In her children’s literature course, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was on the syllabus.
For her class assignment, Kesler presented to her peers on the symbolism of Rowling’s Dementors, dark creatures that suck the life out of people, and the Patronus Charm, the only thing that can fight them off. She likened the Dementors to depression and the Patronas to overcoming it through positive thinking.
Not far away at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., dozens of wizarding fans had a similar idea. Emma Morrison, a third-year Medieval Studies and Religion major, had started a chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance, a global network of campus and community clubs where Potter fans jointly work for social justice. The Laurier chapter’s first big project focused on Dementors and depression. After a social media campaign promoting awareness of mental health services on campus, the group held a Yule Ball (a Hogwarts-inspired formal) during February mid-terms. “We wanted to have something fun to allow people to let loose in their time of stress,” she says. More than 220 showed up for butter beer and dancing.
Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi, who teaches children’s literature at Western, is unsurprised by the focus on the Dementors. “Emotional states in the series are always represented through magic,” she says. Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards, is bewildering, much like university, she points out. “The staircases never stay in the same place from one period of class to the next.”
Investigating why so many Quest students seek counselling
It’s 8:35 a.m. on January 24th. I have 25 minutes before class starts, but I already know this day will be a struggle. My eyes are worn out and my hair is greasy and unkempt. I haven’t slept right in nearly three days and I’m stressed. The lingering question reappears in my head. Is Quest University’s block program right for me?
Quest is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts and sciences university located in Squamish, British Columbia and it is the only university in Canada entirely on a block program. That means classes are capped at 20 students and only one subject is taught at a time, every weekday for three hours over a three-and-a-half week period. Students are expected to complete around five hours of homework or research every day outside of class for a total of eight hours of work daily. Although many students are able to excel under the block plan’s intensity, others—like me—are thrown into a mental war of attrition, struggling to survive. This made me wonder: Is the mental toll worse at Quest than at traditional universities without block plans?
As more students ask for extensions, profs ask: is this real?
I met Anna Drake, a University of Waterloo assistant professor, at recent event in Toronto and asked: what are professors talking about these days? She said they’re discussing how many students are presenting with notes from counsellors or doctors saying they’ve been mentally unwell or extremely stressed and are in need of extensions or exam deferrals.
Drake, a political scientist, doesn’t recall this being an issue when she was an undergraduate or when she started teaching as a master’s student in 2001. But a few years ago, a professor warned her and other teaching assistants at Queen’s University that, “it seemed to be fairly easy for students to get notes of this kind.” Too easy, perhaps.
Later, teaching her own course at the University of Victoria, she was surprised when four students out of roughly 40 presented with notes near the end of the term asking to defer their semesters.
What students are talking about today (March 12th)
1. The headliners of Montreal’s much-anticipated Osheaga Music and Arts festival in August will be the Cure and Mumford & Sons. If those two bands don’t impress you, at least a couple of these other acts probably will: Beach House, Diamond Rings, Azealia Banks, New Order, the Lumineers, Phoenix, Kendrick Lamar, Vampire Weekend, Alt-J, Hot Chip, Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, We Are Wolves, A Tribe Called Red and Wild Belle. That variety makes the $235 general admission pass look a lot more affordable. I highly recommend all students go to at least one big show at Parc Jean-Drapeau while they’re still young enough to get away with it. It’s a special place.
2. Some strange people in Toronto are paying $40 each to attend “cuddle parties,” a trend that has also been reported in Calgary. They’re just like they sound. Strangers get together in big groups and then cuddle, spoon and hold hands. Everyone wears pajamas and they all hang out together on pillows on the floor. Clothes stay on and it’s apparently non-sexual. Jessica Maxwell, a doctoral student at U of T who researches relationships, tells The Grid newspaper that cuddling stimulates production of the chemical oxytocin, a sort of love drug that relaxes us when it’s released.
Joshua Beharry works to improve mental health on campus
Moments before he jumped off Vancouver’s Oak Street Bridge, Joshua Beharry texted his brother. He was hoping the message would be delayed—his brother had notoriously bad cell reception—but he wanted his family to know what had happened. Then, after waiting for a break in traffic, he leaped over the railing and into the Fraser River. “It was terrifying,” says Beharry, now 25. But even after jumping, he didn’t regret it. “I was thinking ‘this is the right thing to do.’ There was no chance of me ever getting better.”
Just over three years later, Beharry is speaking out about his suicide attempt in hopes that people like him will get help without feeling stigmatized.
What students are talking about today (February 1st)
1. Nothing gets students more riled up than when you try to curb unhealthy binge drinking. The University of Ottawa proposed banning shots and limiting beer pitchers to groups of three people or more, but is reconsidering after a backlash from students. Anne-Marie Roy, spokesperson of the Student Federation at the University, told CBC News that the bars they run on campus are safe for students and that such restrictions would hurt revenues. (Not to mention the fact that students would probably just go somewhere else if they wanted shots or pitchers anyway.) Speaking of drinking, a new study shows that too much alcohol leads to Type 2 diabetes in rats. Just saying.
2. The federal Liberal leadership candidates are touring campuses. Justin Trudeau spoke at Brandon University in Manitoba on Thursday where he talked about broadening the party’s support and creating jobs. Marc Garneau was at the University of Prince Edward Island earlier this week where he told The Cadre he would help solve joblessness through a tax credit to employers who hire young people and capital gains exemptions for angel investors who invest in a start-ups.
Dr. Donna’s advice for stressed out students
‘Tis the season to be harried! Realizing that not all of you will celebrate Christmas, I still thought we’d poke a little fun at the holiday season. In doing so, I’m going to give you the gift of a superpower, possibly the most powerful tool you can possess to keep healthy and sane during the upcoming exam session, but, like many presents, it will come with “some assembly required”.
What better inspiration for university students as they finish term work and study for exams than that red hooded hero superhero, Santa Claus. Santa Claus? A role model? True, he has the BMI of the Goodyear blimp and an atrocious fashion sense that not even a cross-dressing elf would copy. Agreed, he has a serious eating disorder and a drug habit from smoking who knows what in those pipes that he and Frosty share.
However, despite being an unpaid chimney sweep and no matter how many spiked eggnogs he has consumed the night before, Santa gets the job done on time every year.
Can we really blame hunger and depression on tuition?
What does a slight rise in antidepressant use at the University of Ottawa have in common with a jump in students using the campus food bank?
The answer is rising tuition, say student activists.
“I think financial stress is a big reason for students relying on antidepressants a little bit more over the last few years,” Ann-Marie Roy, vice-president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, told CBC last week when asked about growing antidepressant prescriptions on campus.
“We don’t think that people should have to choose between paying tuition fees and eating,” Chris Hynes, director of the SFUO food bank, told CBC a few days later when asked to explain a 10-fold increase in campus food bank customers since 2007.
Tuition is indeed rising in Ontario. Undergraduates here pay the highest average fees in Canada at $7,180 and growing five per cent annually. But do fees really explain depression and hunger?
Amanda Todd was attacked online and at school
There was an outpouring of condolences on social media following the suspected suicide of a British Columbia teenager who last month posted a gut-wrenching video to YouTube of her treatment at the hands of relentless bullies.
Coroner Barb McLintock said Thursday night that preliminary indications suggest Amanda Todd, 15, took her own life one day earlier.
Todd posted a haunting, black-and-white, nine-minute video on Sept. 7 in which she doesn’t speak, but holds up a series of white pieces of paper with brief sentences in black marker.
On the papers, the teen explains that as a Grade 7 student, she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts via webcam.
One year later, Todd said she got a message from him on Facebook, though she didn’t know how he knew her name or where to find her.
Canadian students feel hopeless, depressed, even suicidal
This week’s issue of Maclean’s took an in-depth look at the mental health crisis on university campuses. Read the story, check out our tips for dealing with stress and join the conversation on Twitter: #brokengeneration
In late August, as the first leaves changed from green to red and gold, university ghost towns were coming back to life. Residences were dusted out. Classrooms were readied. Textbooks were purchased—and new outfits, new computers, new posters to decorate dorm room walls. Amid this bustle, construction workers at Cornell University began installing steel mesh nets under seven bridges around campus. They overlook the scenic gorges for which Ithaca, N.Y., is known; in early 2010, they were the sites of three Cornell student suicides of a total of six that year. Students cross the bridges daily on their way to class.
Cornell’s bridge nets are the latest and most visible sign that the best and brightest are struggling. In an editorial in the Cornell Daily Sun following the 2010 suicides, president David J. Skorton acknowledged these deaths are just “the tip of the iceberg, indicative of a much larger spectrum of mental health challenges faced by many on our campus and on campuses everywhere.”
A McMaster psychiatrist’s best advice
This week’s Maclean’s cover story looked in-depth at the mental health crisis on Canadian campuses.
Earlier this year, the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities solicited advice on dealing with stress before it becomes a problem.
Dr. Michael Van Ameringen, a professor in the department of psychiatry at McMaster University and former co-director of the anxiety disorders clinic on campus, suggested students build these five habits to stay mentally well.
1. Manage expectations: “It’s important to learn to have reasonable expectations of yourself when you go to a new place. You’re not going to instantly ﬁgure out the way to learn and get 90s in all classes.”
2. Take a break: “There’s no doubt that people are more efﬁcient when they work for ﬁxed periods of time, followed by planned breaks.”
Continue reading Five tips for dealing with stress and anxiety
Simon Fraser students debate gender-exclusive spaces
Keenan Midgley played basketball, soccer, baseball and football. But it isn’t his athletic skill that has made him well-known on campus in Burnaby, B.C. It’s the budget he’s written as treasurer of the Simon Fraser Student Society.
The fifth-year accounting student added funding that will carve out a special space on campus for guys. The men’s centre, assuming the budget passes a final vote, will get $30,000 next year. That’s the same amount that the women’s centre, started in 1974, will receive.
The pending creation of the men-only space is the source of much discussion at Simon Fraser University. Since the news broke in April, many students have questioned whether the men deserve funding. Along with that, a debate has emerged over whether women—who make up 55 per cent of undergraduate students at SFU—still need their own women-only space.