Op-ed: Effective mental health advocacy is needed at U of T

A March summit hosted by Jack.org U of T calls upon students to promote positive change

Op-ed: Effective mental health advocacy is needed at U of T

Jack.org U of T is hosting its first annual regional mental health summit on March 24. The summit, titled “Impact,” will bring postsecondary students from across the GTA together with experts across mental health fields. The goal of this summit is to build skills and relationships in the spirit of furthering mental health advocacy and learning how to advocate effectively.

Numerous conversations surrounding mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in the current cultural consciousness. They are part of our University of Toronto culture, like the recent discussion surrounding the university’s mandatory leave policy, and they are part of Canada’s national culture, with programs like Bell Let’s Talk growing yearly across the nation.

As laudable as the efforts have been to bring about change in our communities, what we are doing is not yet equal to the task at hand. The need for effective mental health advocacy right now is crucial. Still, there are students with mental illnesses who suffer silently, who walk past primary care facilities with signs that read “accepting new patients” — but the signs aren’t offering mental health care. These illnesses may lead to crisis or even death, and while patients wait for months to see someone, the common cold can be treated 365 days a year on a walk-in basis without the need for a referral.

This is but one symptom of an issue that at times can seem vaster than empires. There are issues of stigma both structural and social that make it hard to even discuss mental health, whether in the context of illness, or even in the context of how individuals should care for their mental health. Jack.org is dedicated to abolishing these stigmas through education and empowering youth leaders to improve their communities.

The “Impact Summit” is one way we seek to do this. We aim to bring students and mental health experts together in a communal learning environment, in the hopes of developing and improving the conversations that we are already having in order to more effectively bring about desperately needed social change.

“Impact” will be the largest student-led summit of its kind in Canada, open to 200 postsecondary students across the GTA. The summit’s theme is effective mental health advocacy, and it will feature skills workshops, a panel of individuals that have pioneered mental health initiatives in our community, a keynote address from U of T’s Psychiatrist-in-Chief of Health & Wellness, and a collaborative case competition. The full details are listed on our chapter website, jackchapteruoft.org.

Join us on March 24 and help us drive effective and positive change within our community. Let us alter attitudes about mental health — not just for the one in five, but for everyone.

Sean Smith is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying English, Philosophy, and Writing and Rhetoric. He is the Chapter Lead of Jack.org U of T.

David Frum talks Trump at U of T

George W. Bush’s former speechwriter offers insight on political consequences of current White House

David Frum talks Trump at U of T

David Frum, author and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, spoke at an event held by the Rotman School of Management on January 24.

The event served as a promotion of Frum’s new book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, which provides an analysis of the effects the Trump administration has had on democratic institutions in the United States.

The event featured a discussion with Frum and Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine, and it was moderated by Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Inc.

Before getting into discussions based on the content of the book, Reisman asked Frum about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US federal election. Frum said that, with what we already know about the Russian investigation, this is “one of the biggest scandals in American history.”

He explained that while there still remains a lot of unanswered questions in the investigation, “to sit down” and to “take a meeting with a foreign intelligence agency” with the specific purpose of collaborating on defeating another political candidate is enough of a scandal, without even beginning to answer the questions currently being investigated: “to what degree did the Trump people coordinate [and] how much did they share back with the Russians?”

His book attempts to address the current Trump administration’s impact on the US political landscape. The two speakers offered their insights and perspectives on the current status of democracy in the US the role of immigration in the country’s political polarization.

Frum argued that democracy is on the decline, citing a widespread survey from his book that posed the question, “Is it essential to you to live in a democracy?” Among Americans over the age of 70, over 80 per cent of the responses said yes, while with the people under the age of 30, only about 25 per cent said yes.

Frum said that this is due to the fact that, for younger generations, wars fought on the basis of democracy are too far in the past to have the same impact they had on older generations.

Goldberg added that, from World War II, the Nazis “were so heinously awful that one could make a shortcut mentally to say, ‘Well obviously [democracy] is enormously useful because look at what we defeated,’ but people don’t have these memories anymore.”

Frum argued that immigration will always be a “source of stress,” using the 2016 election in the US and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom as examples of the right-wing backlash to immigration.

Goldberg said he does not view the United States’ current political turmoil as a consequence of immigration but as a backlash to the US electing its first African American president.

Barack Obama was more than just a president, he said, but rather a “symbol that a country is changing, that the colour of a country is changing.”

Moving forward, both Frum and Goldberg said it is difficult to predict what kind of long-term impact this administration will have on the United States.

Goldberg said that he has two theories that he alternates between, depending on “the day of the week.” On the one hand, he said that America has resilience “built into the system,” and that one day Americans will “wake up” and “snap back to some behaviour” that he considers to be more reasonable. However, he also acknowledged the fact that “all empires decline.”

Frum said that the long-term implications of the Trump administration depend on how long Trump remains in office. With the current economic growth and the “higher spending power” of after-tax income due to the Republican tax bill, he added that the odds could potentially be in the Republican party’s favour for the 2018 midterm elections.

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell speaks at U of T

Only Canadian female PM discusses women in leadership

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell speaks at U of T

Kim Campbell, Canada’s only female Prime Minister, spoke at U of T last week to discuss women in leadership and the barriers to entry that they face.

The event, on January 18 at the Isabel Bader Theatre, was held by the School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG) and featured a talk given by Campbell, followed by a panel discussion with prominent women in the field of public policy, including Sarah Kaplan, Professor of Gender & the Economy at Rotman School of Management, and Terhas Ghebretecle, the Director of SPPG’s Gender, Diversity, and Public Policy Initiative.

Campbell focused on the problems she saw with how people perceive leaders, and how to fix these issues. She began by talking about whether things have changed since she was chosen for Canada’s top job after then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney resigned in 1993.

“There is a growing understanding of why women leaders face the barriers they face,” she said. “Enough women have persisted that we’ve come to see what women in fact bring to the fields that they participate in.”

Campbell was joined by Sarah Kaplan and Terhas Ghebretecle. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Campbell served as Prime Minister for less than a year before her party, the Progressive Conservatives, were elected out of office.

“When I had political retirement thrust upon me by the Canadian electorate, it gave me time to go back to my social sciences roots,” she joked.

She continued to describe how research has shown that people perceive women to be “non-prototypical leaders.”

“When you are a non-prototypical leader, you are often seen as an anomaly,” said Campbell. “You fall off the radar screen when you’re out of office, even when you serve a full term.”

During the panel discussion, SPPG Director Peter Loewen asked how women should balance “trying to be tougher than men… and trying to change what the picture is of a political leader.” In response, Kaplan echoed Campbell’s statements, saying that people need to “change [their] own expectations of what [they] think a leader looks like.”

Ghebretecle said that “not all women have a choice.”

“When you’re Black, when you’re a woman, when you’re young… it’s about survival,” she said. “I don’t have that ability to be able to say, ‘Oh, should I try and advance the cause of women in this meeting and not have to care about whether I’m wearing makeup or not.’”

At the conclusion of the panel, Campbell said that one way to remove the barriers facing women is “to go back to see who were not seen in our history. The women, people of colour, Indigenous people, people who were left out of the narrative… It’s not new.”

Deb Matthews, former Ontario Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, was in attendance at the event. Speaking to The Varsity afterward, Matthews said “it was fantastic” and that she was eager to open the conversation up to “diversity of all kinds.”

“It’s not just women that we need — we need more young people, we need people to reflect the face of the province,” said Matthews. “I think it’s a really important conversation and I know we can do it because we’ve done it with women.”

Winterfest and Frost Week events kick off second semester at St. George

Events ranging from pub nights to LinkedIn profile reviews among welcome-back festivities

Winterfest and Frost Week events kick off second semester at St. George


Students at UTSG were in for some frosty fun last week when the St. George Roundtable hosted Winterfest. The festivities are set to continue this week, with the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Frost Week events taking place January 15–19.

“Winterfest is… [a] week of events meant to welcome U of T students back to school, reminiscent of Orientation. We hope to give back a little to the community,” wrote Winterfest co-chairs Albert Hoang, Yolanda Alfaro, and Samantha Douek.

Winterfest kicked off on Monday, January 8 with an open mic night. On Tuesday, students were able to attend either a screening of Norwegian Wood, an adaption of a movie by Haruki Murakami, or a pub night at Supermarket in Kensington Market.

Wednesday’s highlight was the Battle of the Bands at Lee’s Palace, featuring local bands Basset, Newcomer, Rocket Bomb, and the ultimate champions, Dorval. Thursday’s events were a drag show and board game night. Winterfest closed on Friday with another pub night at Tequila Jack’s. Throughout the week, students had the opportunity to eat free pancakes, which were served at individual colleges.

At Frost Week, students will get to decorate donuts on Monday, attend a LinkedIn profile review on Tuesday, sing with Choir! Choir! Choir! on Wednesday, see Young MA in concert on Thursday, and eat a free vegan breakfast on Friday.

“Most of the time, the programming is similar to Orientation,” wrote UTSU President Mathias Memmel of Frost Week. “The idea is to help ease students into the new term. Still, next year’s team should consider re-imagining Frost Week. Whenever an event becomes a ‘tradition’, opportunities for growth and improvement are lost. It’s good to start from scratch every once in a while and invite in collaborators.”

How to get cheap tickets this winter break

Go out without breaking the bank

How to get cheap tickets this winter break

Winter is drawing nearer, and with it comes Toronto’s dazzling extravaganza of wintertime shows and concerts. Unfortunately, for many students who lack the funds to dish out over $100 on a Mirvish ticket, or even $40 on a Canadian Stage ticket, this might mean admiring throngs of well-dressed theatregoers from afar, rather than lavishing in their midst.

To all these wistful wannabes — don’t despair! From the symphony to the theatre, the Toronto theatre scene is awash with student discounts that will light up any student’s winter break and let them bask in the luxury and pomp of live entertainment.


While largely a relic of a time before television devastated the public’s appreciation for the fine arts, the ballet is still a coveted destination. During the winter months especially, the National Ballet of Canada boasts a strong repertoire of shows.

The Winter’s Tale is breathtaking in its detailed and whimsical set, elegant contemporary choreography, and incredible dancing technique, while The Nutcracker is celebrated for its brilliant costuming, enchanting music, and dizzying sequences of perfect à la seconde turns.

This winter, you can sign up for the National Ballet’s free DanceBreak program, which allows users between 16 and 29 years of age to purchase discounted tickets the day of the show, making the prestigious pastime of attending the ballet much more attainable.


Like the ballet, opera is an ostensibly outdated form of entertainment. But as antique becomes chic, opera is once again a viable — not to mention classy — way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The Canadian Opera Company offers an Opera Under 30 program, through which people 29 and younger can buy opera tickets for $22. The Opera Atelier’s OPERATIX program is similar, offering $15 opera tickets to those aged 15–30.


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) offers a shockingly low price of $16 for tickets bought a few days prior by music lovers aged 15–35. Students should sign up for the TSO’s TSOUNDCHECK program to reap these benefits during the holidays, perhaps by enjoying a discounted pass to see Howard Blake’s genius with the production of The Snowman.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir will host Handel’s “Messiah” on December 13–16, as well as a festive singalong production on December 17; the venue offers discounted tickets to the under-35 crowd through a subscription to the Tafelscene club.


Toronto’s rich amalgam of quality theatrical productions has lent it the title of “Broadway of the North,” and the holidays are an especially exciting time to visit Toronto’s many theatres.

Mirvish makes merry with a run of the new production of the original Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, and Ross Petty has a whacky take on A Christmas Carol, a Yuletide must-see with its witty script adaptation, excellent acting, and beautiful costumes. This feel-good Christmas classic, soaked in nostalgia and heartwarming storytelling, is sure to delight even the Scrooges in the audience.

Soulpepper offers rush tickets for $25, and $5 tickets for those 21 and under, upon presentation of ID. The organization also has a StagePlay program for those under $30, offering $20 tickets for most performances, when you sign up at Stageplay.ca.

For further theatrical discounts, Canadian Stage’s C-Stage program offers youth under 30 access to $15 tickets, and the Sony Centre’s Under 30 Rush Club offers tickets to a variety of shows for the same price.

hipTIX.ca also offers $5 student tickets to a variety of shows, including comedy showcases, musicals, and dramatic productions.

It’s a great time to be a student — take advantage of these deals this winter season, and enjoy the karmic reward for all those hours spent on papers and studying. Remember to bring student ID as you celebrate Christmas break with class!

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect current dates and ticket prices.

Science around town

Your guide to the top science-related events this week

Science around town

The robot will see you now: the revolution of artificial intelligence in medicine

Ethicists, computer scientists, artificial intelligence experts, and health care professionals come together to weigh in on the ethical issues concerning the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. How will we deal with issues of confidentiality, accuracy, and accountability?

Tuesday, April 5 

4:00–5:30 pm 

Bahen Centre for Information Technology

40 St. George Street


Admission: Free with registration 

Designmeets: Design Thinking in Healthcare

Hosted by PIVOT Design Group, this talk is about transformation in the healthcare experience and delivery. It features speakers Collen Youg, online community director for Mayo Clinic connect, Craig Thompson, diector of digital communications at Women’s College Hospital, and other innovative thinkers. 

Tuesday, April 5 

6:00 pm 

MaRS Discovery District

101 College Street 

Main Auditorium 

Admission: Free with registration 

Astrotour Planetarium Shows

Join the free Astronomy Public tour —  taking place on the first Thursday of every month — for a free public talk followed by telescope observing and planetarium shows.

Thursday, April 7 

8:00–10:30 pm 

Astronomy Building

50 St. George Street 

Admission: Free with registration (meeting places differ)

Astronaut Jeremy Hansen Speaks

The U of T Aerospace Team and UTSonISS hosts space talk, featuring Lt. Col. Jeremy R. Hansen, one of the two Canadian astronauts expected to fly to the ISS by 2024. This is an opportunity for students to find out more about the Canadian Space Programme and what it’s like to be an astronaut.

Friday, April 8 

11:30 am–12:30 pm 

Bahen Centre for Information Technology

40 St. George Street


Admission: Free with registration 

Science around town

Your guide to the top science-related events this week

Science around town


Richard Gilbert, U of T medicine professor and co-founder of Fibrotech, a biotechnology company will present new developments in antifibrotic therapies.

Monday, March 28 


FitzGerald Building 

150 College Street 


Admission: Free 


The Joint Center for Bioethics welcomes Andrew Franklin-Hall, assistant professor at the U of T philosophy department. He will be presenting on consent and the competency of minors in making medical decisions independently.

Wednesday, March 30


Health Sciences Building

155 College Street 


Admission: Free 


Lemonade School is offering an introductory class on HTML fundamentals and CSS style. You’ll need a laptop with a text editor if you would like to participate in coding. The organizers recommend Sublime Text3.

Wednesday, March 30


Daniels Spectrum Building 

585 Dundas Street East

Third Floor 

Admission: Free with registration 


U of T welcomes Dr. George A. Heckman, associate professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, to give a talk about long-term care for elderly suffering from chronic disease.

Thursday, March 31 

12:00–1:00 pm 

Institute for Life Course and Aging 

263 McCaul Street 

Third Floor 

Contact event organizers to register

Science around town

Your guide to the top science-related events this week

Science around town


Hosted by the Sustainability Consultant Network, is an opportunity for students to come out and learn more about the provincial government’s new waste-free proposal.

Monday, March 21


Centre for Social Innovation

720 Bathurst St.

Admission: Free with registration


A panel discussion about the mental health issues facing post-secondary students and treatment strategies for the future. The event will feature guest speakers Nessikha Karsenti, Director of Health Out Loud, a mental health executive representative from the Health and Wellness Centre, and executive team members from Minds Matter Magazine team.

Tuesday, March 22


Croft Chapter House

15 King’s College Circle


Admission: Free with registration


Hosted by the Anthropology Student’s Association, this event will feature Dr. Stephen Batiuk, an expert on the rich archeological history of wine. The seminar will be followed by an information session for first-year students.

Tuesday, March 22


Anthropology Building

27 King’s College Circle


Admission: Free


The Joint Centre for Bioethics Seminar Series presents a discussion concerning the ethical issues in health care of children, the current state of the field and how to combat problems which may arise in the future.

Wednesday, March 23rd


Health Sciences Building

155 College Street


Admission: Free