Acadia Mental Health Initiative strives to make positive impact on campus

A student speaks with a vendor at the Mental Health Week Resource Fair

Mental Health has been a topic of conversation across university campuses for years. Conversations range from how to raise awareness about mental health, advocacy, and what resources need to be available.

Acadia has taken strides over the years to increase the amount of resources and services available to students on campus to help improve mental health. The Acadia Mental Health Initiative (AMHI) was established to provide outreach and information about mental health services to students. “We focus on peer support and advocacy on campus,” says Jenna Purkis, AMHI Coordinator. “We listen and try to connect people to campus resources available to them. We also listen to what students want to see and issues they’d like us to address.”

AMHI hosted Mental Health Week on campus Oct. 23-29. Its goal is to promote mental health at Acadia by working to provide peer support, reduce the stigma around mental health in the community, and connect students with resources on and off campus to improve their mental health.  

The week-long event featured a number of different activities including a movie night, a student resource fair, a community conversation, and two workshops.

“The week is really about advocacy and awareness. We want to make students aware of resources available to them and how they can help one another,” says Purkis. “We offered two training workshops for students who want to be prepared to assist and respond to their peers in any sort of crisis situation.”

Looking to hear what students think about mental health on campus, AMHI sent out a survey and set up a booth in Wheelock Hall.  What they heard was that many students feel a sense of isolation and loneliness.

To combat this issue, AMHI plans to collaborate with other resources on campus and make students more aware of the options available to them. “We want to connect with other resources such as mental health supports and student services, but also clubs and groups that don't directly relate to mental health,” says Purkis. “Even if a group's primary goal isn't to promote or address mental health, it can still have that effect. Appreciating and promoting the positive impact hobbies, activities, and casual social connections have on a person is a part of looking at mental health holistically.”

Julia Wassef, a Counsellor in Acadia’s Student Resource Centre believes that events like these are a great way to encourage campus-wide conversations. “Stigma is often the reason people don’t reach out for help, and with events like Acadia’s Mental Health Week, I hope we can create a culture of caring that facilitates a campus-wide conversation about mental health,” she says. “These events spur discussions that highlight what we can achieve collectively to support those struggling with mental illness.”  

AMHI is hosting its next event, Chill Week, at the end of November. This event, while similar to Mental Health Week, is more about having the students take time, relax, and de-stress before their upcoming exams.

In the meantime, there are a number of services available on campus to address students’ needs. The Student Resource Centre, offers CounsellingStudent Health, and Accessible Learning Services that meet the diverse needs of the Acadia student population. In addition, the Acadia Personal Support Line provides an anonymous and confidential support to students from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.

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