Unwind Your Mind

Did you see those ribbons tied around the trees on King’s College Circle? It had nothing to do with Tony Orlando. They were all there as part of a campaign to raise awareness about mental health.

Most of the ribbons were white, but every fifth one was orange, to represent the one in five people who will experience mental illness during their lives. Members of Student Life Health Promotion Programs wrote “1 in 5” on each ribbon, and tied them to the trees lining King’s College Circle and Drive hoping to generate dialogue about mental illness and stigma.

“People kept coming up to us and asking, ‘one in five what?’” says Judy Vorderbrugge, Community Health Coordinator with Health Promotion Programs. “Which is exactly what we were looking for. This event was about creating a visual representation of that statistic, and to demonstrate just how common mental illness in our society.”

It’s all part of Health Promotion Programs’ campaign called Build on Your Strengths, which highlights events, workshops and even fitness classes at U of T that help foster overall student wellness, and runs throughout the month of October.

“We could have put up a bunch of posters with a whole lot of information about mental illness, but students probably would have just glazed over,” says OISE student Bergita Petro, former coordinator of the Healthy Campus Campaign. “This is a way to start a conversation about mental health, mental illness and stigma, hopefully in a new and meaningful way.”

October and November can be stressful, especially for students new to university life. Once the initial excitement of September’s events has passed, many students start to feel overwhelmed or maybe even a bit disillusioned. The reality of heavy academic workloads and tough midterms has hit. And after Thanksgiving, many who have moved to Toronto to attend U of T often begin to feel homesick, especially if they haven’t yet found a new social network and a sense of belonging. Many students are starting to get some marks back, and it can be a harsh awakening if they’re not doing as well as they’d hoped.

“This is a time of year when, for many, the reality of university life hits, and it can be really challenging,” says Vorderbrugge. “University is a highly competitive environment, and students can be reluctant to ask for help because they don’t want to appear to not measure up. But all of us go through periods where we need help from others, and there should be no shame in that.”

Just about everyone gets worried, or homesick, or even a bit disillusioned at some point during their university life. This often happens after Thanksgiving after seeing family and friends, and the excitement and novelty of being in university has likely worn off.

Even if you’re just a little stressed right now, it’s important to do what you can to keep a healthy balance. Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Make time for friends and fun – it’s not all about studying all the time! Exercise most days of the week – it doesn’t have to be intense, just enough to get you out of your chair regularly. Spend time outdoors whenever weather allows. And reward yourself when you reach your goals (perhaps a movie after a finished paper).

For more information about mental health, mental illness and the resources available on campus, please visit the Health and Wellness website.

Student Health 101

Student Health 101

Student Health 101 is U of T's online health and wellness magazine, designed just for you. Your good health is one of the most important resources you have as you work to achieve your academic and personal goals. In the magazine, you will find all kinds of information and tips about how to stay healthy throughout the year.