World Mental Health Day

well_wmhd_web-1950x650.jpg

World Mental Health Day is observed internationally on October 10. 

The overall objectives of this internationally recognized day involve raising awareness of mental health around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This day also encourages us to provide space to talk about mental health and advocate for the additional needs of others around the world so mental health care can become a reality for everyone.

Mental Health: #LightUpPurple

Mental health is something we all need to care for, including, for some, caring for a mental illness. With or without a diagnosed mental illness, we all have mental health that will fluctuate and need care at different periods in our life. What this looks like will vary but we all deserve safe and accessible support that meets diverse needs and experiences. 

It’s normal for mental health to decline but it can be difficult to share that with trusted folks around us, which can prevent us from getting the help we need and prolong suffering. Join us, as we are cooperating with #LightUpPurple, a national campaign focused on the importance of talking with friends, family, and colleagues about our mental health. #LightUpPurple and let folks around you know that talking about mental health is important to you.

#LightUpPurple stickers will be available across campus at InfoLink booths on campus starting October 5, 2021. Various buildings on North Campus will also be lit up purple in observance of Mental Health Day. 


Upcoming Events

October 6, 2021: Building & Maintaining Better Boundaries workshop for faculty and staff  10:00 AM - 12:00 PM, Register through the LearnCentre

October 7, 2021: Cultivating Mental Wellbeing Through Mindfulness
12:30 - 1:30 PM, via Zoom

October 12, 2021: Mental Health Check-in
1:00 - 1:30 PM

October 13, 2021: Introduction to Mindfulness
2:30 - 4:00 PM, Online

October 13, 2021: Cultivating Mental Wellbeing Through Mindfulness
12:00 - 1:00 PM, via Zoom

13 Octobre: Campus Saint Jean Workshop: Mieux Comprendre Mon Stress et Mon Bien-être
6:30 PM, Zoom Meeting ID: 8585878338 (Mot de passe / Password: 344562)

October 20, 2021: How to Have a Supportive Conversation
1:00 - 3:00 PM, Online

October 22 (submission deadline): Student Life During COVID
The COVID pandemic continues to present challenges for the student experience. The University of Alberta Library and Wellness Supports invite you to participate in a community arts initiative to explore and express your student experience during COVID. All submissions are considered for publication in a zine.

October & November 2021: Unitea - One-to-One & Collective Tea Times
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM, weekdays


Caring For Our Mental Health

A pandemic is a stressful event for individuals and communities, so it will be normal to feel some stress and anxiety. Feelings of stress and fear – as well as self-isolation due to social distancing – can make it difficult to maintain close social relationships, which are important to well–being and to maintaining our resilience in the face of a crisis.

Mental health looks different for each of us and so it’s necessary to acknowledge intersectional experiences. Simply put, we all have different starting lines that influence how we experience mental health which necessitates diverse supports.


What Can You Do?

Here are a few suggestions for simple actions that can help foster positive mental health.

Connect with Others

We are born with the biological need to maintain connection with others. When disconnected with others, we experience loneliness. Living through a pandemic, we’ve all experienced social isolation as public health measures disconnect us from friends and family. 

One way we can care for our mental health is to maintain connection with others. If our mental health is declining, it may feel like the last thing you want to do. However, maintaining connections with others can boost meaning, purpose, reduce stress, and foster a sense of belonging. 

We need each other more than ever as we live under the constraints of the pandemic. We need to be deliberate about our social connections. Reach out, even when it’s the last thing you feel you want to do. 

  • Phone a friend or family member
  • Schedule a video call 
  • Go for a walk with your roommate 
  • Join a study group or student club 
  • Ask a coworker to lunch
Listen to Others

It’s far too common to answer “I’m fine, thanks” even when it isn’t true. How many of us repeat this when asked “how are you?” because we don’t believe the asker really wants to know. Let’s be a campus that lets each other know that we want to know - and will make space for the real answer.  

Listening is a skill that we can all develop. Practicing this skill with friends, colleagues, peers, and students on campus makes a difference in cultivating a connected community, which can have mental health benefits for all of us.  

The CMHA has some suggestions for listening the next time you ask someone “how are you?”:

  • Turn the video option on if you're meeting virtually (Hint: seeing each other makes being connected easier.) 
  • Turn off distractions (music, take out earbuds, turn off your phone).
  • Find a quiet place to talk.
  • Pause the urge to check your phone or email. 

Taking a moment to listen in those moments can provide opportunities to support each other through difficult times which can help us get help when we need it.

Listening is a skill we can all develop. You can take free training through Wellness Supports at the University of Alberta: How to Have a Supportive Conversation.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an invitation to step out of the clutter and really focus on what we are doing, thinking, and feeling in this moment. It’s a skill developed by deciding to slow down and taking the time to pay attention and be curious about things that we’re experiencing and things that we see around us. 

Research shows that mindfulness can help improve well-being and quality of life. It can help people reduce stress and anxiety, manage symptoms of some mental illnesses and substance use problems, and also improve physical health.

There are many different ways you can practice Mindfulness, from formal sessions to a short check-in with yourself on the way home from class. There is no right or wrong way, and what you experience is what you experience. Here are some quick mindfulness techniques suggested by the CMHA, which you can practice anywhere:  

  • Eat a meal without distractions like TV or any other devices. Pay attention to what you’re eating and the different sensations that come up, and notice how it makes you feel.
  • Go for a walk on campus and set out to really pay attention to the environment around you using all your senses. What do you experience?
  • Talk with a friend face-to-face without any distractions like phones. Focus on the conversation and really listen without judgments or expectations. Notice how you feel. Just remember to wear your masks!
  • Check in with yourself at any time. What thoughts do you notice? How do they make you feel?
  • Take a minute to sit quietly and focus on the sensation of your breath. When you find yourself distracted by a thought, acknowledge the thought and redirect your attention back to your breath.

With practice and dedication, we have the ability to “remodel” our brains in ways that can help us to function better. This is known as neuroplasticity. 

Proponents of mindfulness have long thought that meditation can cause physical changes in the brain. Research shows they were right! Mindfulness can, in fact, change the brain through neuroplasticity. The more mindful we become, the more our brain adapts to make it our default state.

Learn more about mindfulness: October 13, 2021: Introduction to Mindfulness


Mindfulness Resources

Ask For Help

Acknowledge how you’re doing and let trusted friends or family know. Being open with others will let them know how they can help you. Asking for help can include going to campus services you are familiar with and letting them know you need support. 

There may be times when you know your mental health needs support but you’re not sure where to go. There is a wealth of support available on campus that can support a variety of needs. Students can contact the Student Service Centre and staff the Staff Service Centre. They’re set up to help campus members find appropriate supports.

Other Ways to Help Yourself and Others

Learning more about mental health, supporting each other and ourselves are ways we can combat the judgment and stigma that prevents people from asking for help.

The following are ways you can help combat the judgement and stigma that continue to surround this conversation:

Campus opportunities: 

Learn

Engage

Practice

  • Focus on your spiritual wellness by visiting one of the North Campus Multi-Faith Prayer and Meditation Spaces
  • Get the Welltrack App to learn more about coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Off-Campus Opportunities: