We as a nation, have come a long way from the past methods of treating and recognizing mental illnesses. However, there still remains a stigma surrounding mental health, despite the fact that mental illnesses affect every 1 in 5 people, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Stigma around people with mental illnesses stems from the concept of it all being in their head, making society not regard it as serious ailment that can affect day to day operations. This stigma also instigates, through media, that mental illnesses can make a person dangerous to others. To understand and accurately assess the mechanics of mental illnesses we need to get rid of the stigma surrounding it to offer better help to the people who need it.
Another factor which contributes to the mental health status of an individual is the environment that they are in. One, especially brutal environment to take care and nourish our mental health is a stressful environment, such as university. With the constant deadlines for assignments, essays, midterms, finals, etc. it can be a challenge to keep up, often leading us to disregard our mental health.
To gain a further insight as to what resources UofT has to offer, specifically University College, we got in contact with Kiana Habibagahi, the Mental Health and Wellness Commissioner. First and foremost, it is noteworthy to mention that Kiana deems herself extremely grateful to be in a position where she can offer help to those who need it, not only does her role go hand in hand with area of study: Neuroscience, but it also gives her the passion to keep on helping others.
Kiana describes her role as the Mental Health and Wellness Commissioner as one of offering resource guide for students to redirect individuals to the appropriate facilities as honestly, transparently, and efficiently as possible. They also offer an online document which you can refer to if you feel uncomfortable coming in person (can be found further down on the article). Also, part of her role is figuring out whether mandates from admin regarding mental health really look out for the best interest of students.
Her commission is also looking to train all the UC lit committee in the Identify, Assist, and Refer+ module, which is an online module which takes about 15-20 min to go over the appropriate actions one can take to help recognize the tell-tale signs of changes in mental health. The Mental Health and Wellness Commission believes that is especially important to train the UC lit committee because they are the top of the pyramid, the leaders which people come to share their troubles. The IAR+ training, however, is not limited only to UC lit, it is open to all so that you can also use it to recognize and assist people around you (link to the module is provided further down). The great thing about the module is that it is specific to a school setting, thus, giving you resources, which can be found on the UofT campus.
Lastly, I would like to sign off by expressing my gratitude for Kiana for sitting down with me and going over her role and future prospects. She can usually be found running around campus, but also in her office in the UC junior common room, or more conveniently reached through her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.