When I was 14, I went through a period of mental illness that nearly ended my life. Two years later, I watched a friend go through it. I had no idea what to say or do. I wanted to help her. I wanted to fix everything, but I couldn’t. Even after having gone through it myself, I felt like I wasn't able to offer her anything of value. I felt helpless. I think that experience is a big part of what made me decide to go into a helping profession, and to eventually choose social work.
Since high school, I’ve learned that that we can’t "fix" other people. But there are things we can do to help. Sometimes the best thing is to just listen, to know the resources available out there, and to point people toward them.
I took a mental health class last semester, so when I saw The Inquiring Mind workshop I thought I’d sign up. What I appreciated the most was how much the workshop correlated with what I was learning in class: that our mental health isn’t only about disorders – it’s tied to our wellbeing.That you find yourself at different points on the mental health continuum at different times in your life. That if you’re on the ill side of the continuum, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental disorder – just like if you have a diagnosed mental disorder, you can still be on the well side of the continuum.
We learned about ways to support people and coping strategies for when things get stressful. And we didn’t just talk about those things, we practiced them.
The experience made me wish there was something like this in my first year at MacEwan. Not that it’s too late now for me to use what I learned, but that first semester at university was really difficult for me – I had just moved to Edmonton from Quebec, I didn’t know anyone, and I was really worried about school and my finances. University can be stressful, and staying mentally well can be hard. I think the things we learned in the workshop would have made life a bit easier.
– Mikhayla, 2nd year student, Social Work Diploma
The next workshop for The Inquiring Mind is on May 24. Students can email firstname.lastname@example.org to register, or watch for more workshops throughout the summer and in the Fall.
This story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.