There is a lack of understanding from students about the services that they can use to help maintain their mental health. This was the topic of the Minding our Minds fourth annual conference, hosted by Victoria University last week Thursday. The conference and its many speakers were introduced by Victoria University’s dean of students, Kelley Castle, who maintained a light tone throughout the event despite the sometimes overwhelming or heavy nature of the presentations.
While most students may be used to hearing about mental health in terms of psychology, Professor Mark Kingwell from the Department of Philosophy at U of T offered a philosophical perspective in his keynote address. He argued that looking at “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Camus as the metaphor for the near post-human world that we are living in now was the key to being happy. He explained that even though life may seem meaningless, it still demands a full engagement, and we have the ability to make our lives our own, which is the most liberating decision that one can make.
Conference participants heard panelists discuss the role higher education institutions have in helping students with mental health problems, and what they can do to improve their outreach. Participants also had the chance to hear from U of T students about their personal struggles with mental health conditions, and they were able to ask questions after each presentation.
An overarching theme in the conference was the negative effect that technology and social media can have on a student’s mental health. Kingwell argued that the constant pressure to keep up with the latest technological advances could bring about a sense of upgrade anxiety.
Victoria College student Rowan DeBues suggested that U of T students suffer from a syndrome fueled by competition, both online and offline. Students or young people in general, try to show the best side of their lives on social media, whereas in real life, they compete to see who has the hardest, most stressful life in terms of academic and extracurricular commitment.
The closing remarks were given by Ben Atkins, the Co-president of the Victoria Student Administrative Council. During his talk, he reemphasized the importance of not only having resources available to students when they need them but also making an environment that makes it easier for students to express their feelings. Having these two components is what makes mental health services truly accessible and available to help the students that need them.