The end of October isn’t just a time for candy and costumes. For many students, it marks the middle of the semester where high workloads and exams start to overwhelm students and chip away at their mental health.
On Oct. 17, as part of Stress Busters Week, the TRU Wellness Centre held a suicide awareness workshop to help people learn to recognize signs and ways to support friends, family and acquaintances.
Chelsea Corsi, TRU’s wellness coordinator, said that in anticipation for this stressful time, the Wellness Centre usually puts on Stress Busters Week at the midway point and end of the semester.
“Students are faced with midterms, exams and they might be behind on some things. So, it’s just a time to reflect and provide students with information on how to reduce their stress, how to try and stay healthy during these times when they feel a bit overwhelmed and they’ve got so many things on their plate,” Corsi said.
Corsi said that this year they added a new event to the mix; a suicide awareness workshop, which aims to provide additional help to students at risk or those who might know someone at risk.
Corsi and Andrew Mackereth, the McGill Housing Residence Life Coordinator, said they decided to make suicide awareness part of Stress Busters Week because of feedback they received in 2013 and 2016 during their National College Health Assessment.
“They were asking them [students], ‘What would you like your university to provide you information about?’ And one of them was how to help a friend in distress, because people want to help their friends and so this is a way that people can learn,” Mackereth said. He added that the workshop really went over how to approach someone that you think may be having difficulties with their mental health.
“How to listen compassionately and then how to connect them to someone that can help them out.”
Mackereth said that it was important to offer this type of workshop on campus so that students know what types of resources are available to them on and off of campus.
“Exams, midterms, things like that cause a lot of stress for students and that stress can bring on a lot of mental health issues and cause pre-existing mental health issues to be escalated. I think that giving mental health support and how to support your peers through that is really important for students and faculty, staff, community members so that they can support students through theses harder times.”
For any student who is at risk, the best thing they can do is reach out. Mackereth also said that this is good advice for students who think that they may have a friend at risk.
“The supports are all around you, you just have to be able to reach out and know where they are.”
Along with the suicide awareness workshop there were lots of other activities offered throughout the week, such as colouring, mindful meditation, breathing workshops and Therapy Dog Thursdays. Corsi said that the therapy dogs are one of the Wellness Centre’s most successful initiatives and sees between 150 to 200 student and employee drop-ins every week. Corsi said that the dogs really help to boost people’s overall mood.
“There’s actually a lot of research evidence to show that pets, dogs especially, do help people reduce their symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress,” Mackereth said.
The next Stress Busters Week will be held during the last week of November.