by Ishaan Sachdeva
THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Ontario colleges and universities are currently facing a student mental health crisis. In our society where we are surrounded by confusing, complex and convoluted remedies for even the most minor mental health concerns, it is hard to fall back on the simpler aspects of life and ignore the powerful and beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health, a seemingly simple element of our daily lives. This provided the inspiration for Thursday’s symposium at Lakehead University on “A Conversation about student mental health and wellness.”
The two-hour event was organized and hosted by the Active Mental Health Initiative President, Ishaan Sachdeva who is a Grade 12 IB student at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Thunder Bay, in collaboration with Lakehead student clubs Psi Chi and NeuRIG. The event was sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Thunder Bay. Dr. Josephine Tan, who is a psychology faculty member at Lakehead University and a clinical psychologist was the mentor for this event.
It was designed to share information about mental health stigma and challenges in university students as well as the role of physical activity in promoting mental health. The audience was also encouraged to discuss student mental health concerns and barriers to physical activity with a panel of experts who suggested Ideas for addressing these barriers and promoting physical activity on campus. There were two special keynote presentations from Lakehead University faculty and staff. Dr. Amanda Maranzan, who is the Director of Clinical Graduate Programs and a psychology faculty member, delivered a talk entitled “Stigma, help-seeking and university students”. Ms. Brooke Moncrief who is the Coordinator of Graduate Diploma in Professional Kinesiology gave a talk “The role of physical activity in promoting mental health”. Other highlights included a panel discussion with experts from Lakehead University ( Dr. Kristen Jones Bonofiglio, faculty member from the School of Nursing; Ms. Aimee Jaun, the Associate Vice-Provost Students; Ms. Irene Pugliese, Senior Counsellor from the Student Health & Wellness; Ms. Stephanie Campbell, President of Psi Chi; Mr. Dylan Chopp, Vice-President Events of NeuRIG; and Ms. Brooke Moncrief) and a Tai Chi demonstration with Tai Chi master and city of Thunder Bay counsellor Counsellor, Mr. Peng You. The panel discussion was moderated by Ms. Muskaan Sachdeva, a medical student from the University of Toronto.
The symposium was an incredible success with more than 50 faculty members, high school students and University students in attendance. One member from the audience, Dr. Michael Wesner from the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University, said that the symposium was “very well-run and professional” and that it addressed “a very important topic for all educational institutions”. The IB Guidance Counsellor at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Mr. Clarke Loney, while congratulating on the incredible success of the symposium said, “Several keynote speakers and panel experts changed the perspective of the audience through the lens used in talking about aspects of mental health and the role that physical activity can play in enhancing our mental health”.
University is a key life transition for many high school students, which demands adaptation to a new social environment in addition to the stress of academics. In order for students to perform optimally in their studies, it is critical for them to be aware of the challenges they face during the transitional period and the benefits that simple activities, such as staying physically active, can offer to offset the deleterious effects of stress.
Ishaan Sachdeva, President of Active Mental Health Initiative addressing “A Conversation About Student Mental Health and Wellness”