There is an increasing openness with younger people when it comes to engaging around mental health issues.
Deb Kemp-Koo, manager of accessibility services and interim director of student development at the Prince Albert campus of Sask Polytech, was speaking ahead of a nationwide initiative later in the month focused on growing the conversation around mental health.
“Part of it’s the new generation coming up and part of it is this real societal shift, “Kemp-Koo told paNOW. “[This is] breaking down some of the stigma and barriers towards talking about mental health issues.”
The P.A. campus will be among the 128 universities and colleges involved this year in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign representing a total student population of more than a million. The initiative encourages campuses to put on special events, whether they be conferences, sporting or otherwise, to get students more engaged in the conversation about mental health.
Kemp-Koo said the Saskatoon campus would have a contest where students can post positive messages in a talk bubble to spread the level of engagement. The winner gets a pizza party. The campus in P.A. was still finalizing what their activities would be for the Jan. 31 event but Kemp-Koo added local students and the staff were very engaged.
“We believe in the value of health and wellness supports so students can maintain a healthy physical, emotional and psychological balance,” she said.
In the spring of 2016 the college partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association to offer mental health first aid training to 150 faculty and staff across the institution. The program had been in place since 2013, so Kemp-Koo said they take the issue seriously.
“Through initiatives like the [first aid training] and our “Friendship Bench” which is geared towards starting the conversation and ending stigma , we’re fostering an environment where mental health is part of our everyday conversations," she said. “This is a big issue here.”
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