In a world where the many pressures of life can accumulate, there can be a serious concern for mental health. According to a statistic from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), one in every five Canadians will experience a mental illness in his/her life. Enter the Campus Education Committee, who organized the Mental Health, Mental Wealth event to raise student awareness.

“The main thing is to raise awareness for students about mental health, and make them aware of what services we have at Laurier and in the community,” said Marshal Rodrigues, the event’s organizer, “This is one of Laurier’s initiatives to de-stigmatize mental health.”

To support Laurier’s cause, several organizations from within the Brantford community set up displays to inform students about mental health and variables associated with it. St. Leonard’s, the CMHA, Laurier’s Criminology department, as well as the Healthy Lifestyle Committee appeared at the event to offer their own input on the issue.

The event was centralized on three primary objectives of informing students and the community about campus services that treat the illnesses, as well as the stigmas associated with it, and emphasizing its political importance. Each participating organization offered some information relevant to their general cause. In particular, organizations like St. Leonard’s and the CMHA extended their support for counselling services in the wake of a backlog for the university’s counselling services.

“There’s a big backlog for counselling, so it’s an alternative for students to use,” said Mike Parsons, an event volunteer.

Symptoms of mental illness tend to appear between the ages 18 and 25, hence why it’s important to reach out to university students who are in the thick of that age range. Often, students will feel discouraged from getting the help they need to cope with mental illness because of common misconceptions, according to Lill Petrella of the CMHA.

“Most people who have the symptoms won’t go for help because of the stigma,” said Petrella, “People feel like they will be misunderstood and misjudged.”

Common misconceptions can lead people to perceive those with mental illnesses as insane or lacking the ability to deal with difficult situations or even violent psychotics. These myths often lead to people avoiding mentally-ill persons, out-casting them. Jennifer Lavoie, an expert in psychology and assistant professor in Criminology at Laurier explained that mental illness is “one of the most highly stigmatized illnesses in Canada.”

“Mental illness is an umbrella term, but people tend to focus more on the more dysfunctional disorders,” said Lavoie.

Adding to the common myths of mental disease, Lavoie explained that while we may focus on the more severe symptoms of the disorders, we also mistake psychopathy for being a mental illness. This is why violence is sometimes a perceived characteristic of mental illnesses.

“We assume that people who commit violent crimes are mentally ill, but the vast majority are actually sane,” Lavoie added.

In terms of what the future holds for those suffering from a mental illness, Petrella believes it is getting better as more people are getting the help they need. However, she also asserted that the current situation still isn’t ideal. With improvement necessary, the Campus Education Committee is taking the steps to do just that, by raising awareness on a misunderstood matter and helping their peers whom are in need of finding the right places to go.

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