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Mental health campaign focuses on ending stigma

Adam Travis / The Brunswickan

Adam Travis / The Brunswickan

Just because you look physically healthy doesn’t mean you’re mentally healthy, and one of the best ways to ensure great mental health is to talk about it.

This is the main purpose behind why UNB’s counselling services and the Student Union have
teamed up to begin a campaign against the stigmatization of mental health issues.

Their goals are to let students know that campus is a safe space to speak about mental health
and that, while they may have a mental health problem, it doesn’t define who they are.

“You don’t have to be ashamed of what you have, this can be a part of you without it being all of you,” said Lee Thomas, the UNBSU’s vice-president internal.

Thomas struggled with bulimia nervosa for over six years and has sought therapy for issues with depression. She thinks that stigmatizing mental health occurs because of a lack of education.

Thomas hopes to create a dialogue on campus through the campaign.

“It’s so pervasive yet no one talks about it [mental health stigma] and a lot of people have a
hard time identifying what it is,” said Kathleen Pye, the mental health strategist for UNB
Counselling Services.

Pye is working closely with Thomas on the new campaign. She wants students to begin to
prevent severe mental health issues instead of just seeking intervention when there’s a
problem.

“We wouldn’t do that with physical illnesses, why are we doing that with mental health?” Pye
said.

The first event in the campaign is the “My Definition” poster campaign, which began on Aug. 28.

The posters feature individuals with different mental health issues and are meant to emphasize
that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.

In October, the first Annual Mental Health Week will run from Oct. 5 to 11 and will include panel discussions, a coffee house, documentary screenings and a lunchtime learning series, as well as a re-launch of the campaign posters.

There will also be a #mydefinition campaign on social media, and students are encouraged to
contact UNB Counselling Services with more ideas.

“I’m hoping they’ll help students realize this is the kind of thing we want them to be talking
about,” said Thomas.

Katie Doucet, a 26-year-old biochemistry major at UNB is one of these students. She was
originally diagnosed with major depression and panic disorder. Doucet withdrew from her
classes in 2007 and was hospitalized after her 17 year old cousin killed himself. She knows
personally about the stigma that surrounds mental health.

“I remember telling my uncle about that I’m bipolar and he said, ‘Isn’t that the type of disorder
that people run up and down the hallways screaming and stuff?’ And I’m like, I don’t think so,
I’m not doing that,” Doucet said. I’m worried about being judged and people not taking me seriously for having it because there’s such an image that comes to mind when you think of bipolar and I’m not that image.”

Doucet is excited to get involved in the campaign, and hopes others do as well.

“There’s some kind of power in opening up that makes other people open up too, and it might
save somebody,” said Doucet.

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