The mental health anti-stigma campaign, #MyDefinition, led by UNBSU vice-president internal Lee Thomas, is about to become something much greater than what she originally started a few months ago.
With the partnership of the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick, the campaign will be spreading out into various communities all over the province next May.
At first, the posters were meant to create conversation around mental health at UNB. This is the first campaign of its kind that the UNBSU has run.
“We knew we needed an anti-stigma campaign, and we knew we wanted to do it as a Student Union. I ran on a platform of mental health and international students, so it was super important to me,” Thomas said, adding that “university students experience disproportionate levels of mental health issues.”
The new partnership between the UNBSU and the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick will give both large and small communities across the province the opportunity to openly engage in conversations about mental health.
The posters won’t be the same from community to community. A key aspect of the campaign is that they will reflect the residents of each community, keeping the posters relatable and, ultimately, starting important conversations.
Thomas said she is excited because #MyDefinition will soon be in regions where mental health is not always discussed openly.
“The campaign is so powerful because it’s real people [in the posters] that they know,” Thomas said. “I grew up in a small town and people never talked about mental health.”
Thomas said the posters will help people with mental illness understand they are not alone in their journey. They create opportunities for people to feel empowered and find courage to openly speak with others about mental health. And it’s not only for people with diagnosed mental illnesses.
“It also let people who don’t necessarily have diagnosed mental illnesses to come forward, because we know those people are relatable for a lot of people. Everyone has mental health, even if you don’t have a mental health concern,” Thomas said.
The poster idea of this campaign was conceived by Thomas and Kathleen Pye, the mental health strategist at UNB. The concept behind it was that mental health is a part of a person but that it does not define them.
“People have very unique relationships to their mental illness or mental health. Some people do see it as a struggle or something they live with. And so it was really important that we let people define that on their own,” said Thomas.
Thomas said the posters have served their purpose, as long as they have helped at least one person feel unashamed when talking about mental health.