We are now a few months into dealing with life amidst a global pandemic. This period has been difficult for everyone across the globe. Every single day you wake up, you open your social media for the latest wave of news and you are hit with one more awful thing that has happened. One more death, one more atrocity, one more tragedy. So many lives hanging on the brink of uncertainty. The news cycle changes so swiftly that we have lost track of everything going on around us. 2020, seemingly the most unfortunate year that we have witnessed, brought with it a never-ending line of terrifying events. Moreover, it caused so many of us to be distanced from the people we love, who would otherwise be the only ray of hope in such tough times. It is absolutely impossible as human beings, for us to not undergo a myriad of emotions under such daunting circumstances.
Being in quarantine for the past few months has put a lot of things into perspective, whether it’s the social inequalities within our communities or our relationships with our loved ones. We were given an opportunity to spend some quality time with ourselves and with our thoughts. While some people were able to use this time productively, most of us struggled to make it through the day. On the global front, our army of practitioners was fighting day and night to treat patients infected with the contagious Coronavirus due to which so many lives were constantly being lost. On the other hand, there were people battling mental health illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to the PTSD caused due to this extremely stressful environment, inside the four walls of their homes.
With the onset of the new academic year of 2020-2021, University of Toronto is delighted to welcome the new First Year students, and welcome back its returning students. This year has been testing, and we expect it to be no less challenging to deal with in the upcoming months. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a shift in the way that the classes will be conducted in the fall semester. Adjusting to taking most of the classes online may be difficult for many students. In addition to this, first-year students normally tend to take some time to transition from high school into the university lifestyle and to get used to the added responsibilities of being a student at this university. Many students find this environment to be intimidating and some experience difficulty keeping up with the rigorous courses that they take. All in all, things can get really overwhelming at times.
It is in times like these, that we really need you to know how truly amazing you are and how our first area of concern is to make sure that you remain healthy: physically, and especially mentally. Every single student at this University is unique and special and deserves to be here. The University of Toronto Engineering ranks 9th in the world and competing with top students from places all across the globe is not an easy task. The fact that you made it into this University is a cause for celebration itself. There will be times when things may get dark, but it is in those times that you need to make sure that you prioritize your mental health above everything else. Everyone has a complex life, and there are many different reasons that may cause a person to struggle with their mental health. One of the main stressors for students is academics, but University of Toronto Student Life provides students with a number of helpful and easily accessible resources like workshops, learning strategists, and advisors to support students academically.
Academics aside, there are so many other factors of your life that can take a toll on your mental health. And the moment you become mentally unwell, it has a huge impact on every single aspect of your life. That is why the University of Toronto strives to provide help in areas concerning the mental health of its students. For this, the University provides a number of resources including helplines like My SSP (for immediate counselling support available in 35 languages), Good 2 Talk (for professional counselling, information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being), Gerstein Crisis Centre (a 24-hour community based mental health crisis centre), etc. There are a number of therapy and support groups, namely Big White Wall, Umbrella Mental Health Network (UMHN) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour Peer Support Group amongst others, which strive to help and support people undergoing mental health illnesses. In addition to this, the University provides counselling facilities along with some projects and social media pages set up in order to propagate knowledge and a feeling of compassion for all those experiencing the different sides of mental health.
The Cannon recommends you to seek help the moment you or someone you care about feels even the slightest bit of mental, emotional or spiritual turmoil. Whom you seek help from: a family member, a friend or a confidant, is completely up to you. In case you feel like you have no one you can confide in, you can always seek help from mental health professionals. The earlier on you get help, the easier it will be to deal with the mental health illness.
Just as important as it is to take care of your own mental health, it is equally essential that you pay attention to the people around you. It is not always easy to pick out a person with an unhealthy state of mind but sometimes based on small observable changes in a person’s routine, like loss of appetite, the appearance of fatigue, restlessness, loss of interest in activities, etc. you can tell that they might be going through a hard time. Just recognizing that someone around you is experiencing mental turmoil is not enough. We request you to educate yourselves about mental health illnesses, some common reasons why they happen, and the standard methods by which you can help people experiencing them. You are not expected to have any advice for mental health patients, and neither are you expected to have solutions for their problems. All you have got to do is to try and be a good listener and to be a good friend. A few kind words, filled with genuine positivity or even just a simple smile, can go a long way in brightening someone’s day. Be kind, to yourself, and to others, and remember that you are beautiful inside out, you are loved, you matter and there will always hope, for you and for this world!