It is officially Thrive month at UBCO. The function of Thrive month is to provide a dialogue for promoting mental health literacy, creating a supportive campus environment, ensuring that students and faculty have access to a variety of different resources, reducing stigma surrounding mental health and reflecting on individuals’ different perspectives and experiences.
Maintaining good mental health is a struggle prevalent within post-secondary students and plays a significant role in how students perform in academia, in their day-to-day activities, social interactions and so on. Therefore, it is significant that further attention and education be promoted on this topic as it can encourage students to access aid and it emphasizes the importance of prioritizing good mental health.
Thrive encourages this maintenance and development by outlining five steps called Thrive 5. These steps include: more exercise and movement; good sleep; a well-balanced and healthy diet; giving back to others and adding to your sense of connection, purpose and wellbeing; and spending time with family, friends, and community.
Much of Thrive 5 was further covered in a kick-off event for Thrive month on November 2. This event was a book club promoting Nicole Malette’s book: It's All Good (Unless It's Not). This book seeks to destigmatize mental health for undergraduate students, as well as encouraging self-reflection and creating healthy habits. This event began with Malette discussing her personal journey with mental health and her challenges moving away from home to university. During this time, Malette had difficulty making social connections which fostered feelings of loneliness which culminated in slumping grades and thoughts of ending her life. However, because she had an amazing support system at home, she was able to seek help and was encouraged to access mental health resources.
For this reason, Malette wants to help individuals going through similar experiences. She explains how mental illness is commonplace within universities. Stigmas, which are barriers to maintaining and fostering mental health, are prevalent on campus and create the false belief that students who struggle with mental health cannot keep up with the vigor of academia, so they should not be here. It is important to de-contextualize these negative ideas and misconceptions people have about those with mental illness through greater discussion.
In her book, she also tries to explain how mental illness, which she defines as conditions that cause distress or problems for individuals in family, social, work, or school settings, can arise for a variety of reasons that include genetics, biology, personality, and environment.
Furthermore, she stresses the importance of recognizing different mental health states and knowing when you are in a healthy state. She defines this state as when an individual can remain calm, can maintain a good sense of humor, not afraid to take on new things, excited to learn, there are no major grade fluctuations, no sleep problems, and physically well. It is important to reflect on our healthy state as this reveals to us what we are doing well in our lives. It is equally important to reflect on negative aspects of our mental health so we know if we should be accessing resources and asking for help and support.
Another key part of her book that Malette unpacks is the significance of promoting mental health literacy for undergraduates. This will help students learn more about how to make a steady transition to university, how to face academic, social, and family hurdles head-on, recognizing the signs of mental illness, valuing and supporting diversity, and developing strategies about mental health.
This event was followed by a question and answer portion from participants. One of these questions was as follows: do you think the stigma of not doing well in university contributes to not reaching out for help? Malette said this is definitely an aspect of not reaching out. There is a general fear of the perception that these students cannot keep up with academia and competition if they are experiencing mental illness. It is important to reach out for help regarding mental health similar to how we reach out for help with academia, and it is equally important that we change this perception.
Another question was how can one be a supportive friend? Malette said that a substantial thing that you can do to support a friend who is struggling with their mental health is to sit and listen rather than try to solve problems. As you sit and listen, in the meanwhile, educate yourself on resources and having them ready so if your friend asks for help, you have resources to provide.
Through all of this, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, it is critical to remember that it takes time and keeping an open-mind to combat these struggles. Even if you have good mental health, it is still a good idea to educate yourself, keep in contact with loved ones, and look into available resources. Furthermore, remember to abide by Thrive 5 whenever possible by striving to foster healthy eating habits, a good sleep schedule and more.
The great thing about Thrive Month is that it promotes many wellbeing resources available to UBCO students. Similarly, the month of November promotes various events advocating for mental health such as this book club. The big takeaway from this event and from Thrive is to educate yourself on mental health literature and discussions to destigmatize beliefs about mental health and promote wellness for all post-secondary students.