News / The Mental Health Issue

President Ono on Mental Illness

November 15th, 2017

President Santa Ono Talks about the Importance of Mental Health.

Mental health and the detriment of mental illness has been a rising concern over the past decade, especially on university campuses where students are becoming increasingly stressed. It was reported that in the past year millennials were the hardest hit generation in regards to mental health problems, compared to the Gen X and baby boomer generations.

Mental health problems are much more common than the general population is aware of, and the stigma surrounding mental illness, though not as prevalent, is still present in society. President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC, Dr Santa Ono believes “part of the problem is that people don’t talk about their own challenges even though it’s really quite common for people to have challenges.”

Ono had his own problematic experiences with mental illness as an adolescent and young adult. “It’s been pretty well-written about that as a young adolescent and as a young adult that I attempted suicide twice,” Ono explained, “It wasn’t until the second attempt that I sought the counselling and medical attention that I needed.”

He continued by saying that, “The good news is that over a period of over a couple of years with professional help I was able to really rebound from that and I have been drug-free for decades now and I’m fully-functioning.”

Ono explained that his passion for advocacy arose from an incident at a fundraiser that he had been invited to speak at, which took place nearly a year after a student at the University of Cincinnati, the school Ono previously governed, committed suicide. At the fundraiser, Ono was preceded by a young adult who had written a book about her friend that had committed suicide. Ono was inspired by her bravery and “very spontaneously, I decided to speak about my own challenges,” he stated.

“I wasn’t planning on saying anything about myself,” Ono said, “until that time I hadn’t talked about my own challenges at all.”

President Ono was placed in the public eye and covered by national media following his speech at the fundraiser, and has become a passionate advocate for positive mental health.

He continued by stating that integrating exercise, healthy eating, and a social aspect into your daily schedule are “proven to have a positive impact on your well-being and mental health.” Although, if you are already experiencing mental health problems and in a state of depression, it’s best to see a counsellor or therapist as soon as possible. Ono concluded by saying, “I want to encourage any student that might be experiencing challenges to proactively seek help with the resources that we have at UBC to meet with counsellors, to speak to a professor, to do everything they can to live, as much as possible, a balanced life.”

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