Manitoba's first student-led mental health conference will begin on March 10 at 6 p.m.
Brian Young is the co-executive director and University of Winnipeg team lead for the Breaking Barriers Summit on Mental Health. He helped build a team of students from the University of Manitoba (U of M), Université de Saint-Boniface and the University of Winnipeg (U of W). He's happy that so many students have come together to tackle mental health in their communities.
"We've got three universities, who generally have been seen as ... opponents. It's really cool that we've decided, as students, as community members, (that) we really want to see something change ... It's really cool that we can all come together and collaborate on this,” Young says.
A mixer event before the main conference will take place at the U of M, and the rest of the panels and events are at the U of W. The summit will focus on building students who can advocate for those who struggle with mental illness. According to Young, the largest barrier for students with mental health issues is stigma.
Adrian Lebar, a U of W student who struggles with a mental illness himself, says that the stigma around mental health is starting to get better, but there's still a lot more that needs to be done.
"I'm glad that (the summit) is happening. I remember back in high school, nobody was talking about depression or anxiety," Lebar says. "I felt weird and alone, and it sucked that there wasn't anybody who wanted to help. But (the support systems) we have aren't good enough. A lot of people fall through the cracks."
Lebar says that so far the U of W has been very supportive of his illness, but he feels that the administration could be a little more lenient towards class attendance.
Young says that a lot of the support systems in place for mental health only cover those who are in danger, and not much is done for people who might require more preventative care.
"There's a significant lack of resources for those who struggle with their mental health. A lot of our mental health resources are based around people in crisis, but there's not a lot done towards prevention," Young says.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue in their lifetimes.
The full conference will take place on March 11 at the University of Winnipeg. For more information, find the group on Facebook.