When it comes to mental health, SAIT students agree that communication and awareness are the most important things.
Jessie Ferguson, a library information technology student, was very open about her own struggles with mental health and their effect, saying that it is “not something to be ignored.”
She also described times in her life when people’s ignorance or prejudice about mental illness has affected her negatively, such as when an employer did not take a panic attack seriously.
Students also agreed that the challenges that college students face, such as the workload, time management, financial worries, and exam stress all contribute to mental health problems.
“Stress just builds up through the year,” said Ferguson, “and eventually you explode.”
Although Ferguson expressed her love of SAIT’s mental health programs and described many of her instructors as being very understanding about the challenges their students face, not every student may be aware of the programs and support system that SAIT has in place to help students who find themselves struggling, whether with their mental health or their grades.
Austin Ferronato, a business administration student, said that he, as a first-year student, doesn’t “know much about (the programs)” and wasn’t given much information about counselling services at SAIT.
Being unaware of the supports in place might prevent students from seeking help in dealing with their problems.
To combat this, Ferronato suggested a public event to help bring attention to both the issue and the solution, and added that doing as much as possible to help when people are young and developing is very important.
Another element that may prevent a person from seeking help with mental illness is the stigma that continues to surround the issue.
Students who feel pressured to perform highly in academics may not want to tell their families and friends about their mental health problems, for fear of being seen as lazy or making excuses. They may also fear being treated differently, or being passed over for potential jobs if employers know about their mental illness.
Ferguson described her boyfriend’s family’s lack of understanding about her anxiety, saying that they believe it is simply an excuse to avoid family gatherings and not a real problem.
Despite the remaining stigma, students also expressed hope for continued support for mental health programs and continued dialogue on the subject, as people continue to realize that mental illness, in its many forms, affects many people, especially students.
Featured image: The front of SAIT’s Heritage Hall building.