‘Reach out and ask’

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Students will start to see improvments in student support as Wilfrid Laurier University received a $40,000-grant from Bell Mobility to be used towards mental health initiatives on campus.

Leanne Holland-Brown, dean of students, and Gail Roth, associate director of development, library and student affairs, applied for the grant in March 2012 after it became apparent that there was a need for better student support on campus.

“We’ve had constrained resources in trying to address mental health,” said Michael Onabolu, president and CEO of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU), who explained how counselling services and the dean of students office was overwhelmed with cases this past year.

However, with the attainment of the grant at the end of August, programs targeting improved mental health support at Laurier are becoming a reality.

“The biggest portion of the grant that we received is for training faculty, staff and other students to better understand how to support others who are experiencing mental health difficulties,” said Adrienne Luft, mental health and student support team leader at Laurier.

Luft will be working alongside a mental health task force, which will be comprised of community partners, campus partners and students to discuss the most beneficial avenues for the money to be spent.

One of these venues is a Healthy Minds Research Project. Luft explained that this involves an outside partner evaluating on-campus support around mental health.

“It’s a very specific study that will really shed some light on the areas of growth and development that should occur at Laurier,” she continued.

Another application of the grant will be an anti-stigma video.

Onabolu said he’d like to see the organization of a “Let’s Talk” — similar to what Bell has put out in the past — campaign at the university.

“One where we actually connect with students who’ve had issues with mental health and talk about what it is that they were going through and some of the ways that we can support other students,” he explained.

According to Luft, they are also linking to off-campus resources such as Canadian Mental Health, Self-Help Alliance and the Grand River Hospital.

“It’s about widening the scope of options for students,” said Luft. “There’s some great services and supports within the university, and we certainly want to build up knowledge of those, but I think it’s also very important to look at our community partners and develop relationships with them.”

Luft and Onabolu both agreed that the overall goal of the project is to increase campus support and create a comfortable environment where students can access the resources they require.

“My hope is that there’s less shame around the conversations about mental health,” expressed Luft.

She encouraged students to get involved as the initiatives begin to unfold throughout the year.

“Reach out and ask,” advised Luft to all students. “[It] can take a lot of courage, but it can lead to a lot of positive results.”

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