While taking care of mental health is something that many students often neglect, self-care is an important part of staying healthy as a university student. To increase students’ knowledge on this issue, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union is hosting Mental Health Awareness Week.
The transition into university can be particularly stressful, as many students move out on their own for the first time. Having to balance a social life and work life on top of classes and studying can increase stress levels, and prolonged intense stress can lead to other mental health issues, including anxiety.
According to the USSU Help Centre, 87 per cent of university students have felt overwhelmed at least once in the last 12 months and 56 per cent have felt overwhelming anxiety in the last 12 months.
Crystal Lau, the USSU Help Centre co-ordinator, discusses the effects stress can have on students.
“Excessive amounts of stress affects most of our university students by feeling overwhelmed with school and the transformation to the ‘adulting’ part of life, and that leads to many different kinds of mental health issues,” Lau said, in an email to the Sheaf.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from Oct. 3-7, beginning with a Mindfulness Meditation session on Oct. 3 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the St. Thomas More College chapel and a Medicine Shoppe workshop on Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. in Arts room 202.
On Oct. 5, a food market will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Place Riel and a movie night screening of Inside Out will be featured at 6:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building room 118. In addition, therapy dogs will be on campus on Oct. 6 from 12 to 2 p.m. in the Murray Library.
“Mental Health Awareness Week will hopefully guide the students to understand how important mental health is and where to learn more and find help on campus,” Lau said.
According to Lau, stress is a necessary part of life, but the key is to make sure to find ways to deal with stress levels by practicing mindfulness, managing time effectively and balancing the emotional, mental, physical, social and spiritual aspects of life.
“Stress itself isn’t the main issue. In fact, it can be a positive thing to motivate productivity. The main issue is how we deal with stress. Lots of students forget to take care of themselves when they are overwhelmed, and the stress creeps up like a snowball monster,” Lau said.
Lau states that mental health is often not taken as seriously as physical health, and Mental Health Awareness Week aims to make students aware of how important it is to take care of their mental health, as well as offer them strategies that they can use everyday to make sure their stress levels are healthy.
“It is important for students to acknowledge that mental health is as important as any other general health, and it can be affected by lifestyle choices, environment and the people around them,” Lau said.
Lau believes that understanding stress and learning how to relate to it in a healthy way is a good first step to taking care of mental health. Thus, she hopes that the awareness week will teach students exactly how to deal with large amounts of stress.
Lau explains her personal method for taking care of stress and mental health.
“The main five things that I was told to check in with myself, are: eat, sleep, exercise, leisure and soothe. It is important to pause — take a break and check in with yourself,” Lau said.
The Help Centre has year-round services to assist students with keeping their mental health in balance, including meditation sessions and a peer support program, which provides students with an open and non-judgemental environment to help them with whatever they may need.
“We want students to know that there are lots of resources for students that we provide, and we encourage them to use these resources to benefit their university experience.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor