Mental health matters because…

Students unite in mental wellness advocacy campaign

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has launched a campaign called #StudentsLetsAct to urge the Canadian government to create positive change for those struggling with mental illness.

Post-secondary institutions across the country handed out broken-heart-shaped cards that read “mental health matters because…” Students were asked to write their thoughts and share their stories on the cards. CASA is collecting the cards and will send them to Ginette Taylor, the Canadian Minister of Health.

“We got messages that said anything from ‘mental health matters, because you are important’ to ‘mental health matters, because I don’t want somebody else to lose their partner,” Adam Brown, CASA’s board chair, says.

“There are some very deep and personal messages that students were writing that really show the fact that we need a better mental health system in this country, and the federal government really needs to step up when it comes to targeted mental health funding,” Brown says.

He says CASA hopes to urge the government to review their financial support systems for students with permanent disabilities, so that students experiencing mental illness can be included in financial support programs.

CASA also hopes that Statistics Canada will work to collect more data on student mental health, so that the government and post-secondary institutions can be more effective in their practices and policies regarding mental wellness.

“This is a campaign that was made by students for students,” Brown says. “We want the federal government to read students’ stories. It’s one thing for us to go there with a bunch of statistics and numbers, but it’s another thing for us to send thousands of messages from across the country about why students think this is important.”

Brown says students can make a difference on a local level by contacting their Members of Parliament and constituency offices to share their thoughts on the needs of students in regards to mental health.

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) is in the midst of launching their own campaign called Take Note.

“Take Note is a series of events addressing gender-based violence on campus but also in general society,” Zee Morales, the UWSA vice-president of external affairs, says.

Jade DeFehr, the UWSA vice-president of student affairs, says when examining student mental wellness and advocacy for such, “it is important to look at the whole variety of issues that can impact student stress and not just rely on corporatized campaigns.”

Brown says #StudentsLetsAct takes an extra step by directly targeting the campaign at the federal government.

With the federal election coming up, Brown encourages students to ask candidates about their intentions and opinions on mental health advocacy and student supports.

CASA is still collecting students’ messages about mental health through their website. Students can submit their stories by going to casa.ca and filling out the electronic form.

Published in Volume 73, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 14, 2019)

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