Mind it!

Guest Blog: Student Mental Health Story

May 3, 2017 • Written by

The following is a guest blog from Laura McNaughton, Child and Youth Care student at the Notre Dame Campus.

 

Laura McNaughton, RRC Student

For a long time, I have felt like I’ve been living two lives. The life everyone else sees, and the life I see. These two lives are drastically different.

When I was in high school, I was known as the happiest kid in school. “She is always smiling”, “She’s so upbeat and happy”. I was sarcastic and witty and joyful, but as soon as I got home, I would sleep until the next day of school. Then I would put on my happy face again and be the other side of me. No one knew the side of me when I was alone. Even now, after I have told my story to others, they are shocked- they still always say to me “But you were so happy in high school”.

Laura’s original artwork.

Depression is like a paradox. You want the illness acknowledged, but at the same time, you also want to deny it. I guess I was in my denying stage at that time. Then I started to realize I was sinking way too far down into a hole. I was in a full blown depression, I was self harming, and to me that was my normal. I had people in my life who were there for me and helped me get through it, but it was still always there- like a friend that just won’t leave you alone. But they’re not really a friend, they’re this toxic being that helps to deteriorate you. I felt all alone, even though there were people all around me. And it took years for me to be able to look at myself and see someone who was worth being around, worth living, just worth it.

Mental health is a process….

Laura (left) helping bring therapy dogs to RRC as part of her student-led practicum in Child and Youth Care.

I am now 22 years old, and actually about to graduate the Child and Youth Care Program here at Red River College. For my last practicum in my course, I actually did this new, unique student led practicum. I was a mental health advocate, connecting with people and organizations all over the city, and helping to facilitate events. Some things I accomplished were; I helped bring therapy dogs to the college for students in exams, I joined an online peer support network, I joined the advisory committee here at the college, I went to mental health talks, created my own business cards and am currently working on my own mental health event. Basically, I did so much in this last 7 weeks that I am shocked. This is not where I thought my life would be.

Laura displaying her prescribed psychiatric medication.

I used to be anxious as all hell, and too depressed to get out of bed to come to school. I used to think I had no future, and I was not going to amount to anything. This last practicum has really helped me to flourish and become who I was meant to be. Mental health is something I am so passionate about, and because of that passion, I have seen my dream become a reality.

Don’t get me wrong- I still have my bad days, I’m still depressed and have those days where I can’t function, I am still anxious, I am on medication to help, but I have something in my life to look forward to. I have found something that gets me out of bed everyday- my passion for helping others.

Mental health is so important to understand, and I want all of us to be on the positive spectrum, but it is an everyday process. It is not something that is going to come easy for some, and that is ok. It is ok not to be ok! I want to be that support for people who feel so in the dark, they cannot see the light. I want to be that light for them.

I have and am currently struggling with a mental illness, but I am here to say, that it will not stop you from accomplishing what you want out of life. It might give you some hiccups here and there, but it is not your whole life. It is not you, it is a part of you- and you are strong and beautiful and amazing and you can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t listen to the lies your illness tells you, You can do it. I believe in you.

I used to be scared to talk about my issues openly, but if it can help someone else not feel alone then I am going to do it everyday for the rest of my life.

“I know its hard to understand, if its never happened to you, but just realize its important to talk about for someone to be able to get through

 

so lets start talking about mental illness – realize it is not a choice. these people are sick, and need more of a voice

 

We need to end the stigma around mental health, Stand up, make a change, and realize happiness is our greatest wealth”

 

-excerpt from poem by Laura McNaughton

If you would like to write a guest blog about your mental health journey, please contact Breanna, Mental Health Coordinator, at blsawatzky@rrc.ca.

“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

Excerpt:

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 (blsawatzky@rrc.ca)

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

 

 

 

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca

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?

-Breanna

 

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.

Prizes

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca 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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca

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 blsawatzky@rrc.ca or 204-632-2061.

Guest Blog: Student Mental Health Recovery Story

March 20, 2017 • Written by

Below is a Gust Blog Written by Thania Bazan, RRC Student.

How Breathing Techniques Have Helped Me Deal with Physical and Mental Health

Hi! I am a second year student at Red River College Notre Dame Campus and enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program. I am in my last term and will soon graduate.

In 2009, my life was very different from what it is right now. I had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a physical condition in the body that brings pain and stiffness to the muscles. I had also been suffering from depression and anxiety for several years that took me to the Emergency room with suicidal thoughts. I received medication with antidepressants but even with the medication it was hard to feel completely happy and willing to go on with life.

In 2013, I was introduced to The Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is present in over 150 countries around the world. This foundation offers a course based on powerful breathing techniques to help with anxiety, depression and different physical and emotional illnesses.

I attended a workshop for a weekend and learned how to practice the Sudarshan Kriya Breathing Techniques. After the first session of practicing Sudarshan Kriya, my body, mind and spirit felt more relaxed. I started practicing these techniques every day for a period of a year. After a year of practicing the breathing techniques, I got enrolled in Red River College, for the first time I felt confident I had a tool that would help me deal with stress, anxiety and depression.

I have been practicing Sudarshan Kriya for the last four years and have been able to see and feel the benefits of practicing these techniques in my daily life. When feeling stressed out, exhausted or simply needing to concentrate for a school assignment, I practice Sudarshan Kriya.

 

 

I would like to invite you to explore the option of practicing these breathing techniques for relaxation and awakening of your mind. The Art of Living foundation will be holding an information session at Red River College Notre Dame Campus for people interested in taking this workshop. More information about the information session will be posted on this blog soon!                

Sincerely,

Thania Bazan

If you’d like to write a guest blog please contact Breanna at blsawatzky@rrc.ca

Let’s Talk! College-wide Mental Health Event

March 14, 2017 • Written by

Michael Landsberg, TSN sports journalist and a face of Bell Let’s Talk Day, is bringing his #SickNotWeak talk to Red River College. Come listen to his talk, ask questions and take part in a meet & greet. Help us break down the stigma related to mental health problems.

#SickNotWeak helps people understand that mental illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Michael will speak about his own experience with mental illness and will inspire us to be a more mentally healthy community.

Details

Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Time: 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Where: North Gym, Notre Dame Campus – Livestreaming will be available at all other campuses

This event is for ALL staff, faculty and students. We understand that some of you may be in class or teaching class at this time, but we hope you consider attending and allowing your students to attend as well.

Lunch and Prizes

Come early for a FREE pizza & pop lunch.

 

 

There will also be prize draws where attendees can win restaurant gift cards, movie passes and even a visit to Thermea! Details regarding how you can win will be announced at the event.

 

Announcements

This event is a part of the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative. Some exciting new programs and services related to mental health at RRC will be launched at this event. Don’t miss it!

Engage in the conversation on Twitter, using #LandsbergAtRRC on March 22nd.

 

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