What is your mental health lens?

Mariam explores embracing intersectionality on World Mental Health Day.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Mariam is entering her fourth year of her BSc with a specialization in psychology. She was born in Nigeria and grew up in Winnipeg. She is passionate about engaging in intentional conversations and creating safe spaces that promote mental health and well-being. Mariam is currently one of the Days of Action Student Interns, which has allowed her to grow this passion. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, travelling, cooking, and reality shows!

Oct. 10 marks World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. This day allows us, as a community, to reflect on the diverse aspects of our identities and backgrounds that significantly influence our mental health journeys. In acknowledging these intersectional lenses, we gain a deeper understanding of how they shape our experiences, perceptions and the ways we care for our mental well-being.

This year, the Days of Action committee turns to the voices of university students who share their unique perspectives on mental health and the importance of embracing intersectionality.

World Mental Health Day serves as a powerful reminder that mental health is a multifaceted and deeply personal journey influenced by our unique identities and experiences. These intersecting identities and backgrounds are not isolated but rather interconnected threads that shape our well-being. By sharing our stories and recognizing how these lenses influence our mental health, we can build a more inclusive and supportive campus community. Embracing intersectionality is not just about self-discovery; it's about fostering a collective understanding and empathy that can lead to improved mental health for all students.

Join your campus community in observing World Mental Health Day in October. Take in a student-led panel talking about mental health, followed by a chance to connect with other participants. Or take a break and go for a Mindfulness Walk through our beautiful river valley with other campus members. The walk will include a guided meditation and a great opportunity to meet new people.

On Oct. 10, a student-led panel and conversation about caring for mental health as a student will be held on North Campus and streaming live at Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ).

As we approach World Mental Health Day, we are excited to introduce you to our remarkable student panellists, who are dedicated to fostering a culture of mental well-being, breaking stigmas and offering hope to those in need. This is a brief introduction to how the panellists' and conversation hosts' intersecting identities have informed their mental health experiences and what difference it makes having these lenses identified.

Meet the panellists

Annika Hodge (she/her)

Anikka is a third-year Honors psychology student. An active volunteer with the Peer Support Centre and the Campus Food Bank, she is interested in pursuing a career in clinical or counselling psychology. Her aspiration stems from her own experiences with mental health and her strong belief in the importance of destigmatizing conversations about mental health. Anikka's experiences and aspirations add a valuable perspective to the hosted conversation occurring after the panel, where we will aim to foster meaningful connections and share experiences.

In her response to how intersectionality impacts her mental health experience, Annika highlights the importance of breaking barriers surrounding mental health.

"As someone who has often struggled with their own mental health, I'm all too aware of how frightening it can be to open up, especially when it feels like you're alone in the battles you face. This is why I advocate so strongly for open and honest conversation about mental health. If even one person can hear your story and connect with your struggle, it can make all the difference in the world. When we talk about mental health we take power away from the stigma, to empower ourselves and each other."

Annika emphasizes the transformative power of open dialogue. Sharing our stories and struggles can break down the stigma surrounding mental health and create a supportive environment where everyone's experiences are valid and understood.

Azra Panjwani (she/her)

Azra is currently an MSc candidate in health promotion at the School of Public Health, specializing in substance use, drug policy and harm reduction. She completed a BSc in psychology from the U of A, where her research explored the impact of photos on autobiographical memory. Currently, she serves as co-chair of CSSDP Edmonton (Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy) and volunteers with Unitea and The FentaNIL Project. Her past involvement with Residence Services, the Peer Support Centre, the School of Public Health Students Association and Sunshine Connected demonstrates her unwavering commitment to breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health. Azra's multidisciplinary background and dedication makes her a valuable addition to the panel, enriching discussions on mental health and community support.

When asked about how intersectionality has shaped her mental health journey, Azra elaborates on embracing the shifting landscape of mental health.

"I love talking about intersectionality! Each person has a unique outlook on the world which is shaped by their identity, experiences and interactions with others. These factors interact with each other and change across time and contexts. The parts of my identity which are more salient change depending on what situation I'm in and who I'm interacting with, but each piece impacts who I am and how I approach the world. It's been helpful for me to recognize that the ways I experience my mental health, and the ways that I can best care for myself, shift across contexts and time."

Azra reminds us that our identities are dynamic and multifaceted, influencing how we perceive and manage our mental health. Understanding this fluidity allows us to adapt our self-care strategies as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of our identities.

Calypso Haine (all pronouns)

Calypso is a second-year student currently majoring in English with a minor in Native studies. Calypso's identity is rooted in being a mixed Cree, queer and two-spirit poet. Before their academic journey at the U of A, Calypso worked diligently to obtain a social work diploma at Keyano College. This experience ignited their professional interest in mental health, a passion rooted in their personal journey with mental health challenges that have been integral to their life. Calypso's unwavering dedication to raising awareness and literacy in mental health is both inspiring and essential. Their desire to continue contributing to this important cause will undoubtedly add depth and insight to the panel discussion.

Calypso's cultural awareness has allowed them to reclaim their mental health journey. When expressing how intersectionality has impacted their journey, they say:

"The lens of being a Cree queer person has strongly shaped how I look at my mental health. I'm shifting from a cishet white-dominated view of mental health; being aware of this growth makes my mental health journey feel more purposeful. I'm now able to identify coping strategies that actually help me instead of hindering me. Before I became aware of my lenses, I tried to fit a colonial standard of what mental health care looked like—an awful idea! I'm now able to help myself in ways that I wasn't before, and I'm so excited to find more ways to care for my mind, body and spirit!"

Calypso's experience stresses the importance of embracing one's cultural identity and understanding how it influences mental health. By doing so, we can develop strategies that resonate with our true selves and foster holistic well-being.

Danielle Shaposhnikov (she/her)

Danielle is in her third year, majoring in philosophy with a minor in psychology. She takes on multiple roles on campus, serving as a training team leader at the Peer Support Center (PSC) and the president of Hillel on Campus, advocating for a safe space for Jewish students and fighting antisemitism. Her profound passion for mental health is evident in her work as a trauma-informed yoga instructor, assisting vulnerable groups like Holocaust survivors through Jewish Family Services. Additionally, Danielle recently authored and illustrated "A Commotion of Emotion," a children's book series facilitating crucial conversations. With an unwavering commitment to personal growth and learning, Danielle eagerly anticipates engaging in the panel discussion, contributing her diverse experiences and passion for mental well-being to the dialogue.

For Danielle, it is important to celebrate diversity and strength through her mental health journey.

"My background has taught me to truly value the amazing diversity and strength of people and their life journeys; it has made me grateful for the amazing people I am surrounded by; it has made me admire the strength of those brave enough to share their stories; and it has made me realize how a simple question can save a life or form an incredible bond. These realizations have deepened my understanding and care for mental health, and with this, I aim to spread that awareness and spark conversation and support for everyone, regardless of background, disability, religion or sexuality."

Danielle's perspective highlights the importance of empathy and gratitude in our approach to mental health. We can create a supportive community that transcends boundaries by valuing diversity and being open to conversations.

Morgan Wolske (she/her)

Morgan is currently in her fourth year of pursuing a degree in elementary education with a minor in fine arts at CSJ. At CSJ, she actively participates in the student association AUFSJ (l'Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean). Additionally, Morgan dedicates her time to volunteering at The Landing and engaging in various Campus Recreation intramural sports on North Campus. Her connection to and passion for mental health advocacy is deeply rooted in her personal battles with mental health challenges. This firsthand experience has driven her to continuously seek knowledge and understanding in the field, not only for personal growth but also to better support her friends and family. Morgan's unique perspective and commitment to mental health will undoubtedly contribute to enriching the panel discussion.

Morgan speaks on her mental health journey, moving from hesitation to empowerment. "Mental health is definitely something that I have viewed and experienced in a variety of ways. In some of the environments where I have lived, struggles and overcoming battles with mental health have not necessarily been discussed, which made me hesitant to talk about and relate to mental health in certain situations because for me it did not ever feel like the time or the place. I am glad that since then I have become more open and comfortable talking about mental health, both its positives and negatives because it has made it easier for me to understand others and to be understood."

Morgan's journey highlights the importance of evolving perspectives and the significance of creating spaces where mental health discussions are encouraged and welcomed.

Sophie Martel (she/her)

Sophie embarked on her U of A journey in 2018 but faced academic setbacks due to challenging mental health struggles, ultimately leading to withdrawal. After a hiatus exploring diverse professions and finding solace in the guidance of a supportive therapist and loved ones, she bravely returned to academia in Winter 2023, completing her second first year with improved grades and a renewed zest for life. Currently serving as the vice president of operations in the Indigenous Student Union, Sophie has discovered profound community connections and a richer cultural bond, positively impacting her mental well-being. Her journey fuels a passionate desire to support others facing similar challenges and be a compassionate listener. Sophie's resilience and commitment make her a valuable asset to the panel, where her insights will inspire and empower.

Sophie's mental health journey emphasizes the importance of community healing and cultural reconnection. She elaborates on her intersecting identities and her journey.

"My mental health lens is mainly Indigenous - I believe in community healing first and foremost, while knowing it can be in conjunction with the Western view of healing. I am still learning to take care of myself and others traditionally, but I continue to expand my knowledge when given the opportunity. I also come from the understanding that those going through direct and generational trauma need particular care through a mixture of community healing, reconnection with culture and therapy. Having identified this for myself, I have started to understand and heal myself and will further work on guiding others."

Sophie's perspective highlights the significance of cultural heritage and community support in mental health care. It reminds us of the rich tapestry of healing traditions that can contribute to our well-being.

Here are some resources to reach out to while navigating your university and mental health journey:

Complete list of campus resources for mental health.

If you are in crisis or need immediate support, please call the 24-Hour Distress Line at 780-482-4357, ACCESS 24/7 at 780-424-2424 (ext. 2), the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.