By: Julia Vodyanyuk

Students attend the Ottawa Royal Hospital Is It Just Me event, which aims to break mental health stigmas and let students know they are not alone.

Algonquin health and fitness promotion students gathered at The Ottawa Royal Hospital on February 7 for the event Is It Just Me? to discuss and learn about mental health.

The event raised funds for Do It For Daron and was also part of the Power to the Purple challenge.

Is It Just Me? focused on addressing awareness, myths, misconceptions, and behaviors of mental illness and what to do if someone is facing them. It stressed how many Canadians go through mental health issues and where they could go for support and help.

Various guest speakers including an addictions counselor, a neurologist, and those with personal experience stood up to talk about their mental health knowledge. They aimed to increase awareness and break negative stigmas through statistics, facts, and even brain scan images.

“We just find that kids sort of hearing about it and learning about it will only increase awareness and break down stigma,” said Sue Riley, member of community relations at The Royal.

During the presentations, the students were asked to participate by answering questions and offering their thoughts and experiences. Students were also challenged to identify behaviors of mental health illness and understand the link between physical and mental health.

Kris McGinn, instructor in fitness and health promotion and chair of the D.I.F.D. working group brought her students to the event to help introduce them to mental health studies.

“It’s my understanding that they’ve never taught a mental health curriculum as part of this program before, so I’ve introduced it for the first time,” she said.

The guest speakers presented various scenarios and asked students to share their own experiences with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. The idea was to show the students how common mental health issues like this are.

The event has been running since November 2011 and has gained a large following over the years. Is It Just Me?, typically aimed at high school students, has recently started attracting college students such as those at Algonquin.

“We’ve gotten a really good response from the event,” said Leanne Paisley, addictions counselor at The Royal and guest speaker at the event, “We’re full to capacity every time.”

The Ottawa Royal Hospital plans to continue hosting the popular event and hopes it will help change perceptions on mental health and offer students professional advice about the onset and treatment of mental illness.