“13 Reasons Why” and Responsible Discussions Around Suicide

April 27, 2017 • Written by

There is currently a popular television series on Netflix that is centered around youth suicide and as such is opening discussions about this important topic. There is however, much criticism of how the show “13 Reasons Why” presents suicide and many are concerned that the popularity of the series will increase suicide ideation and attempts amongst viewers.

If you or someone you are working with is at risk of suicide, please call the confidential, 24/7, Toll-Free Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line at 1-877-435-7170.

If you have watched the series or are likely to be interacting with folks who have watched the series, I suggest you read the following pieces which encourage responsible discussions around suicide.

Responding to 13 Reasons Why by Michael Redhead Champagne

Excerpt: I recently binge watched the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why — All 13 episodes in 24 hours. To summarize, it is a series about a young woman who dies by suicide and leaves 13 cassette tapes behind t o share insights with 13 people who were the “reasons why”.

I was captivated. And horrified. And confused. And sad. And relieved.

Statement re: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series by The Centre for Suicide Prevention

Excerpt: This is a statement regarding the recent Netflix release, 13 Reasons Why, which follows the story of a young girl who dies by suicide.

The Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) is concerned that the Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why novel does not follow the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology’s media guidelines.

CHMA National Statement Responding to Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why


The following are ways in which portrayals of suicide may be harmful:

  • They may simplify suicide, such as, by suggesting that bullying alone is the cause;
  • They may make suicide seem romantic, such as, by putting it in the context of a Hollywood plot line;
  • They may portray suicide as a logical or viable option;
  • They may display graphic representations of suicide which may be harmful to viewers, especially young ones; and/or
  • They may advance the false notion that suicides are a way to teach others a lesson.

Suicide is an important public health issue and must be treated as such. Responsible, informed conversations around suicide are important to reducing stigma and ensuring those at risk get the help they need.

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator (

Stress Relief with Therapy Dogs

April 27, 2017 • Written by

St Johns Ambulance therapy dogs and volunteers at the Roblin Centre, part of the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative.

Laura McNaughton, Child and Youth Care student and Healthy Minds Healthy College volunteer – L – spends some time with Pepper.

Earlier this week we had the privilege of welcoming St Johns Ambulance therapy dogs to both the Notre Dame and Exchange District campuses. Students were able to reduce some of their exam period stress by spending time with these beautiful and calm creatures.

On the topic of animal companionship and health, Christine Holowick-Sparkes of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority writes, “A few minutes of stroking a pet dog prompts a release of a number of ‘feel good’ hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. These help people calm down and relax. Petting a pooch also results in decreased levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol.”

A student spends some time with Cooper the Pomeranian.

There are many additional health benefits related to animal companionship. You can read more about them in Holowick-Sparkes’ full article.

If you want to spend more time with pets, but personal or financial circumstances make it difficult to own your own pet, you may consider volunteering at a pet shelter or even walking a neighbour’s dog.

Thank you to all the students and staff who came out to visit the dogs and to the St Johns Ambulance volunteers for being so generous with their time.

Being with animals is just one way we can care for our mental health, building mental and emotional resilience so that we can better manage stressors such as exams and project deadlines.

What are some other things that help calm you and reduce your stress? Some people take deep breaths, walk, spend time in nature or listen to calming music. Find what works for you and build some time into your study schedule for these healthy breaks.





Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator




Two Free Tickets to World Premiere of Play “Breaking Through” at U of W

April 26, 2017 • Written by

Sarasvati Productions has created a new play called Breaking Through that we think staff and students will be interested in watching at the U of W.

The world premiere of this theatrical production is a combination of perspectives on mental health after two years of research and input from almost 400 local community members.

The play runs on several dates: May 23-27 at 8 pm, May 24 at 1 pm and May 28 at 2 pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street at the U of W).

Tickets normally run $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, but for one lucky winner, you’ll get two tickets for FREE.

Visit your Lifeworks website at www.lifeworks.comand check out what your Employee and Family Assistance Program has to offer.

In order to access Lifeworks, you need the RRC Username and Password:

Username: rrcefap
Password: efap

Then, e-mail and tell us one thing on the website that you didn’t realize was offered, and you’ll be entered to win! This contest closes on Friday May 5, so don’t delay!!

Note: We will do our best to accommodate your date preference.

For more information, check out

Therapy Dogs on Campus! April 24th and 25th

April 20, 2017 • Written by

The end of term can be a very stressful period, with students experiencing added pressure to complete projects and perform well on exams. In order to help students cope with this stress, we’re welcoming the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program to campus. Students will be encouraged to sit with, feel, touch and pet a trained dog, enjoying the relaxing effect this can have on their mind, body, and emotions.

According to St. John Ambulance, the nation-wide program boasts 3,354 volunteer teams who assisted more than 120,000 clients throughout 2015. Therapy dog teams visit hospitals, retirement residences, care facilities, schools and universities.

Therapy dogs have been on campus in the past, and many students have genuinely enjoyed the visits.

Please join us at the following times/locations:

Monday, April 24 in the Cave Lounge at NDC, 11:30am-1:00pm

Tuesday, April 25 in the Atrium of Roblin Centre, 11:30am-1:00pm

For more information, please contact Breanna Sawatzky at 204-632-2061 or

The Everyday Assistant

April 18, 2017 • Written by

The Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) is available 24/7 with access to short-term counselling and a wide range of proactive tools and resources to make your work/life balance smoother, we all know this. What isn’t as well-known is the plethora of services we can take advantage of through that simply make life easier – not necessarily more balanced, but certainly easier.

  • Need to know if you can build your own Will from an online kit or if your situation calls for a Lawyer’s touch? Access the Legal Consultation through your EFAP and figure out your next steps to secure your future.
  • Pretty sure you have a handle on your daily finances but could use some help with your investment choices or long-term savings? The Financial Consultation will show you where the gaps are in your financial health so you make the most of your Financial Planner’s time – they’ll even help you find one!
  • Child or Elder care needs slowing down your daily grind? Allow your EFAP to help you find a provider in your area that fits in your budget.
  • Trying to quit smoking and just need a few quick tips to help with cravings throughout the day? The Stop Smoking Centre will provide just that!
  • Have a child or teen that seems to be struggling with their own school/life balance or a mental health concern but they want nothing less than talking to you? They can access the EFAP as well with complete confidentiality from their phone, laptop or tablet so help is always on the way even when they’re always on the go.
  • First time home-buyer? Learn everything you need to know from maintenance schedules and DIY repairs to budgeting and renovations.
  • Going through a major life event like a death, divorce or job loss? Find coping strategies, community resources and solutions for whatever life has thrown at you.

The bottom line is that you don’t need a “life or death” situation to arise before you can access the EFAP, far from it! An EFAP should be used as a proactive tool as much as reactive, to help you out with life’s daily little curiosities, challenges and opportunities. This is a benefit the College wants employees to have and is paying 100% of the cost for, so take advantage and improve your life wherever you can with LifeWorks!

Click Here to visit LifeWorks

Tips for Managing Interview Anxiety

April 12, 2017 • Written by

Recently, RRC’s Student Employment Services crew put on two excellent Career Café events where College staff from various departments gave students tips and advice to assist in their job search. I was there to advise on, among other things, managing interview anxiety. In this post, I’ve put together some of the common questions I heard from students and some of my replies.

Q. I can’t sleep before an interview because my mind is racing with possible questions and answers. How can I fix this?

It can be particularly helpful to do your interview preparation a day in advance, jotting down your skills, accomplishments and some answers to common questions. Writing these thoughts down on paper will not only help you feel confident (look at all those strengths and skills you wrote down!), but can also decrease rumination – those thoughts repeatedly swirling around in your head as you try to sleep. If you know a particular question is common, come up with an answer you’re comfortable with. Then put the paper away and get a good sleep. Sleep will help your thoughts consolidate in your memory and you’ll wake up feeling even more confident.

If you still find yourself lying in bed, with anxious thoughts keeping you awake. Get up briefly and write them down. Don’t turn on any lights or screens if possible. Tell yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’ll do well. Then go straight back to sleep.

Q. My brain goes haywire in the interview and I can’t put my thoughts together. What can I do to help?

First of all, as mentioned above, prepare a day in advance and get a good sleep. Then, once you’ve arrived at the interview location, but before you enter the interview room, take a moment to practice some calm breathing. You might also want to observe your surroundings, noticing some things around you can help your mind feel connected to the present moment and to keep it from going “haywire”. Notice how your feet feel on the floor, a painting on the wall, any sounds that you might hear.

In this moment before the interview, refrain from using screens or mobile devices. Even if you have to wait a while before being greeted. Simply practice patience and wait. Each calm breath you take will help decrease your feelings of anxiety.

Remind yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’re confident. Don’t feel compelled to answer questions immediately or to talk quickly. Speak clearly, at a conversational pace and allow pauses for you to gather your thoughts. You can actually come across more confident this way!

Q. When I’m in the waiting area, I feel my heart race and I start to sweat. How can I stop this?

This is very common. For many people feel a rush of anxiety right before being called into an interview. The symptoms you’re feeling are your sympathetic nervous system kicking into high gear in order to give you the energy to perform an important task. In that moment, practice some healthy self-talk. Remind yourself that feeling nervous before an interview is normal and common. Remind yourself that you’ve prepared well and are ready to shine. Tell yourself that the rush you’re feeling is you’re body’s way of getting ready for an important event. The interviewers are used to seeing people who are nervous/anxious, since almost everyone shares this experience.

Q. What if I’ve been feeling anxiety for a long time, but haven’t told anyone?

Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience and isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes it passes and we go right back to feeling calm. Some folks, however, feel anxiety for really long periods of time, really often, or really intensely. Sometimes, it starts to limit achievement or decrease feelings of well-being. In these cases you may want to reach out for help from a Doctor, Counsellor, Psychologist, or self-help agency.

If you’re comfortable approaching your family doctor, this is a good place to start. If you are a student, you can access counselling for free on campus. If you’re enrolled in the student benefits plan, you can access coverage for up to $1000 of Psychological services. If you’d like to work with a community based self-help agency, you can contact Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba. These options might seem overwhelming, but start by reaching out where you’re most comfortable.


Do you have any other suggestions on how to manage interview anxiety?



Focus on your process; not your goals

April 11, 2017 • Written by

By Conor Lloyd

About four-months ago I decided to really knuckle down and focus on improving my health.

Now to couch that previous statement, I am not generally an unhealthy guy. I don’t smoke – I quit five years ago — I am not a heavy drinker, and I really don’t eat that poorly, if you don’t consider pizza, chicken fingers, steak, and hamburgers unhealthy that is.

Suffice it to say I am an expert at talking myself out of going to the gym and will – on many occasions – opt to binge watch Netflix, read a good book, go shopping for vinyl, or head out for dinner. In January of this year, I tipped the scale at what I consider a very unhealthy weight. My doctor threatened a litany of cholesterol medications, and frankly taking the stairs felt like a workout.

Needless to say, it was time to make a change.

But rather than simply setting a goal of losing 30, 50, or even 60 pounds, I focused on changing my process to achieving a healthy lifestyle, and used benchmarks along the way to track my performance. Those benchmarks provided me with valuable feedback to see how I was performing and allowed me to adjust my approach along the way.

Those benchmarks didn’t simply revolve around weight loss, albeit that was probably one of the dominant performance indicators at the start, I used a lot of different markers along the way, and that included:

  • Consistent meal preparation
  • Water consumption
  • Weight-loss; and
  • Level of activity (I aimed to visit the gym and meet with my trainer three times a week).

Read More →

Michael Lansberg’s #SickNotWeak Talk

March 30, 2017 • Written by

Last week, on March 22nd, Red River College announced two new support services as part of the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative aimed at enhancing mental health programming for students, staff and faculty.

The announcement coincided with a broader awareness-raising event, in which TSN’s Michael Landsberg — one of the faces of Bell Let’s Talk Day — brought his #SICKNOTWEAK talk to RRC.

L-R: Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator; Laureen Janzen, Manager, Counselling and Accessibility; Michael Landsberg; Adam Taplin, RRC Students’ Association President

Recording Available

We’re happy to make available the recording of the presentation, filmed by eTV.


In addition, we had some awesome prizes available to those who were engaged by either:

  1. Tweeting using #LandsbergAtRRC
  2. Subscribing to the Wellness blog
  3. Asking a question live or via eTV

Here are your prize winners:

$25 Smitty’s Family Restaurant Jan Sanderson, Research Chairperson, NDC
$25 Subway Sarah Broad, BSW Practicum Student, EDC
$25 Red Lobster Shondell Orinthia Babb, Cre Com Student
$25 Tim’s Card John Allan, Human Resource Consultant, NDC
$25 Ultimate Dining Card Teresa Armstrong, Business and Technology Teacher Education Student
$25 Prepaid Mastercard Jaggar Barrault, Student, Portage Campus
$25 Tony Roma’s Derek Schmidt, Civil Engineering Student, NDC
$25 Moxies Barb Caligiuri, Records Management, NDC
$25 Boston Pizza Janaki Balakrishnan, EAL Instructor, Language Training Centre
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Kristie Matheson, BA Student, EDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Gregory Liverpool, Student
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Angela Chotka, Project Manager, NDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Joanna Simmons-Swinden, Nursing Instructor
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Dawood Abdulsalam, Student, NDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Katie Woychyshyn, Cre Com Student, EDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Ashley Blackman, Director, Research and Planning, NDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Treena Chabot, Business Admin. Instructor, EDC
$25 Cineplex Gift Cards Lori Lobchuk, Instructor, LTC
$100 gift certificates for Thermea Shannon Derksen, Teacher Education Instructor
$100 gift card for 10 Spa Allison Saunders, Student
$100 gift card for Jane’s Restaurant D-anne Kuby, Bookstore Staff
$100 gift certificates for Thermea Lisa Carriere, Admin Assistant, Indigenous Student Support Centre, NDC
$100 gift card to Earls Kitchen + Bar Christopher Basilio, Research Coordinator, NDC
$100 Prepaid Visa Card Chad Smith, Counsellor, EDC

If you have won a prize, please be in touch with Breanna at to arrange pick-up. Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all who participated in person, over live stream, and on Twitter.

Call for Advisory Group Applicants: Healthy Minds Healthy College Initiative

March 27, 2017 • Written by

Healthy Minds Healthy College is a College-wide initiative to ensure RRC is a mentally healthy place to learn and work.

Are you an RRC student, staff, or faculty member who cares deeply about mental health and wellbeing? Do you want to help RRC be a health promoting College? We’re launching a call for applicants to serve as volunteers on our Advisory Group!

Purpose of the Advisory Group

The purpose of the Advisory Group is to provide critical input to shape the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative, ensuring a wide variety of perspectives are considered. This is an excellent opportunity for you to make a difference.

We’re intentionally searching out broad representation from across the College. We’re looking for people with lived experience of mental health problems and illness, ethno cultural diversity, gender and sexual diversity, indigenous perspectives as well as folks from a variety of campus locations.

                                            Commitment Involved

The commitment involves attending one 2.5 hour long meeting every two months. You’ll usually have some reading to do in advance of the meeting. During the meeting you’ll share your opinions on how to make certain events, programs, and campaigns successful. Each person’s thoughts will be valued and respected.

How to Apply

The online application form can be found here.

For more information about this opportunity, please contact Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator at 204.632.2061 or

New Red River ReliefLine: Online peer support for students

March 23, 2017 • Written by

Students here at RRC have so much on their plates that life can easily become overwhelming. Sometimes connecting with a peer who really listens can be just what someone needs in order to feel validated, put problems in perspective, and move forward in a healthy way.

We’re happy to announce the launch of Red River ReliefLine – a confidential, anonymous, online, 24/7 peer support service that is available free of charge to students.

Students can link to the service here to connect with a trained peer listener, using their computer, tablet or smart phone.

To become a user, you’ll be asked to share your email address, date of birth and a unique username. Other users and listeners will not be able to see your email address or date of birth.

Listeners From Around the World

Listeners complete online training in active listening and providing compassionate support over chat. Listeners are not counsellor or therapists and do not give advice or conduct therapy. Listeners do, however, provide emotional support and a safe space to sort out what happening in your life.

Red River ReliefLine is a customized version of the service called 7 Cups of Tea that has users and listeners from all over the world. This means that students can access listeners who speak a wide variety of languages. We hope this feature will be particularly helpful for our refugee, immigrant, and international students.

In addition to supportive chat conversations, students can access simple therapeutic exercises through ReliefLine, using the Growth Path feature.

It can feel risky to reach out for the first time, but getting support from a kind listener can be so worth it! We encourage students to use ReliefLine whenever they need it.

If you’d like more information about ReliefLine, have comments about your experience with it, or are interested in becoming a listener, please contact Breanna at or 204-632-2061.