By Gregory McGrath-Goudie, Orillia Bureau Chief
Although they only recently became an official LUSU club, the Mental Health Outreach Team has been working diligently this semester to get Lakehead Orillia involved in discussing mental health. Most recently, the team was involved in organizing Mental Health Outreach Week, a campaign that linked students with resources, workshops, and other students to help with their well-being.
Mental Health Outreach Week, lasting from November 21st through to the 25th, provided students with daily opportunities to engage in mental health discussions on campus. Monday’s itinerary included drop-in hours with Lakehead counsellor Jim Wylie, as well as a safeTALK program run by Lakehead Alumni Katie Fraser, which helps students recognize and assist those with suicidal tendencies. From Tuesday through Thursday, the M.H.O.T. encouraged students to fill out self-love letters (which were then taped all over campus), as well as encouraging students to simply say “hello” to one another. The week culminated with the M.H.O.T. Support Meeting and Board Game Social on Friday.
Aside from participating in Mental Health Outreach Week, the M.H.O.T. regularly hosts meetings aiming to provide peer support. Theresa VandeBurgt, a 3rd-year Media Studies student who serves as the club’s president, stated that “the main goal of M.H.O.T. is to provide a safe and comfortable space for students to open up the conversation of mental health,” as well as reducing “the stigma towards mental health by meeting, talking and supporting one another”. As a part of their meetings, the M.H.O.T. introduces a core topic to be discussed. “One of our recent meetings,” notes VandeBurgt, “was run by our treasurer, Sarah, who gave a talk on her experience with body image.” Next semester, the M.H.O.T. plans on hosting bi-weekly meetings, bringing in guest speakers, and exploring specific topics at least once a month.
Primarily formed by Theresa VandeBurgt, Sarah VanderDussen, Addie Barlow (secretary), and Rochelle Lamarche (media exec), the M.H.O.T. has had considerable success in discussing mental health with students at Lakehead Orillia. VandeBurgt describes her team as consisting of “some of the most hard working and passionate people” she knows, and states that the student body “has been amazing in helping out in any way they can.” She also cites LUSU’s VP Orillia, Sami Pritchard, as a “great support and resource for our team,” as the Mental Health Outreach Week was organized in conjunction with LUSU.
If there are students seeking mental health resources on campus, Vandeburgt suggests Student Accessibility Services and the Wellness Centre. “SAS,” she states, “is a great way for students to get the help they need throughout the school year in order to balance their mental well-being will academic stress. The Wellness Centre offers many services such as the nurse practitioner, naturopathic doctor, and student counsellors”. Beyond these two services, VandeBurgt also suggests the student body as a resource: “Many [students] are safeTALK certified, including all members of the Peer Health Education Team, […] a group of students who provide resources […] about many different health initiatives.” Of course, VandeBurgt encourages students to connect with the Mental Health Outreach Team as well, and their Facebook page may be found at www.facebook.com/MHOTOrillia.