My name is Aadil Khan. I am writing on behalf of TranQool and more importantly the University of Guelph student body. As a student, I am deeply concerned with the state of mental health on campus. In the past few months there have been a striking 4 student deaths. It has been suspected that some of these deaths are the result of suicide. Our community as a whole is deeply saddened by the loss of these students. Unfortunately, these deaths serve as yet another testament to the need to put the stigma surrounding mental health to an end.
During the recent Bell Let’s Talk campaign, I saw the community get together and try to make a difference. I saw many noting a perceived failure of the services available to students. Aside from seeing initiatives on campus, I have seen a growing dialogue arise on Guelph’s “Overheard” Facebook page. This simple page has tied our community together, acting as a forum, and allowing for discussion to arise between members of the community. Almost all of the points I mention here are not just the thoughts of myself, or the TranQool team, but rather a reflection of the community as a whole.
As some of the media covering this story have already mentioned, Connie Ly (a past student at UofG) recently created an online petition. The goal of which is to have the University be more transparent in their efforts to support the mental health of their students. A little more than halfway to the goal of 5000 signatures, Connie has managed to collect 2768 signatures at the time of writing this. Another concerned community member, Elana Zammit, also created a petition to install a “Friendship Bench” at the University. A friendship bench is a bright yellow bench that serves as a daily reminder to all about the importance of mental health discussion. Each Bench also contains URLs for all services in the area for people to talk to. Zammit’s initiated this idea in honor of her cousin Lucas, who sadly died by suicide. Zammit only needs 213 signatures to reach her goal.
Aside from this, many other community members have shared their own thoughts. Some students have put together a ‘Suicide Awareness & Prevention Banquet’ which will be held on campus. Other students volunteer to work with the Student Support Network on campus to individually talk to people who are seeking help.Some have even created a UoG Mental Health Initiative Group/ The point is, as we discuss mental health more, and further chip away at breaking the stigma, we result in more action.
I truly believe the University does care and is trying to do what it can to help students, but perhaps their approach is not the right one. Generic PR emails surrounding these issues, and overbooked on-campus psychiatrists/therapists just can’t cut it. People cannot wait 3-4 weeks to check up on their mental health, instead it needs to be a daily thing. As Guelph resident and suicide prevention therapist Shawna Percy states in her article on the recent UofG suicides, all members of the community should take some form of suicide prevention workshop (like safeTALK or ASIST). Dialogue should open up between students and professors and most importantly peer to peer. Who’s to say we can’t do something like open this dialogue up during Orientation week (for example) and have students take a workshop, or provide access to frequent related seminars during the school year? There are many things we can do to work together as a community, but they all involve opening up dialogue and working together.
At TranQool, we would like to do our part to reach out as well. You can never assume what someone is going through, but you can always give them a chance to let them express it themselves. At TranQool we would like for people to be able to feel they can talk to a therapist without having to be put on a waiting list or just be brushed off. This is why we would like to extend this sentiment and offer 45 sessions to give away. All you have to do is send us an email or a private message.