A student reading the book. Mallika Makkar/THE VARSITY

The University College Literary & Athletic Society (UCLit) has published a mental wellness handbook in an effort to combat the stigma of mental illness. The handbook was developed by the UCLit’s Mental Wellness Initiative Committee.

Matt Thomas, university & academic affairs commissioner of the UCLit, suggested the creation of a handbook when the Mental Wellness Initiative Committee first met over the summer. The committee formed task groups dedicated to the content and layout of the booklet and to conduct research of available campus resources. The committee also put out a call for submissions from students.

“We want to encourage students to talk about their experiences and share their stories so that other students might take comfort in knowing that others dealt with similar experiences, while also learning about where to go for help,” UCLit president Amanda Stojcevski told The Varsity. “We want to provide an outlet for students to express their feelings. We’d like to eventually involve more students in the Mental Wellness Initiative at UC, especially in the possible creation of a second booklet, so it can really be a product of the community it serves,” she said.

Copies of the handbook were distributed at one of the UCLit’s monthly coffee houses as well as at the society’s most recent pancakes and hot chocolate event. The UC Lit will continue to distribute copies around University College and at future events.

“So far, the response has been all positive,” said Stojcevski. “We brought it to the University College Council meeting the other day and students, faculty, and staff all reacted very positively.”

The first page of the handbook includes anonymous personal responses from students who discuss causes of personal stress. Examples include a heavy academic workload and a lack of control.

“[The] resources are available, and the safe spaces exist, but one of the biggest issues on campus is that the student population doesn’t know about them,” wrote Thomas in the handbook’s introduction.

The handbook contains suggestions for how students can cope with stress. These include sleeping, reading, and gaming, as well as asking for help and talking to others.

In addition to three student-submitted pieces, there is a map of the campus that highlights mental wellness resources. There is a description of each service and its contact information and hours of operation.

The final page lists contact information for residence and student life staff at University College who are available to assist students in need of help.   

Stojcevski told The Varsity that there is a possibility for future issues of the handbook and that the UCLit is looking for feedback.

“In future issues, I’d like to see more students involved in the creation of the booklet, as well as more submissions from students,” Stojcevski remarked. “Having more students involved would be a very positive thing, and we’d like to see our initiative slowly grow.”

“If more students are knowledgeable and aware of the problems that exist and the resources to go to for help, we can all work together to help support each other. By starting the conversation about mental health, we can slowly start to reduce the stigma surrounding poor mental health and mental illness, and hopefully students will feel comfortable talking about these things with people they trust.”

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