We recently marked Mental Health Awareness Week and Bell Let’s Talk Day with the College Community. The week allowed us to shine a light on the many ongoing resources and services available to our learners and employees.  

In the Spring of 2021, Algonquin students were surveyed and remarkably, 72% of students reported some level of psychological distress. In another survey done in the Fall of 2021, 63% of students expressed concern for their mental/emotional health. While it is encouraging to see a decline in these numbers, they are still too high and show a continued need to prioritize mental health. 

The ongoing pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need for not only supporting one another, but providing tools and resources to ensure everyone has access to mental health support and the ability to seek out help in a variety of forms. 

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Algonquin College hosted multiple events, workshops, and speakers to bring awareness to our community, and provide students and employees with mental health resources. While attention was focused on the week at the end of January, ensuring our learners and employees have continued access to support and services is an important goal of the College. 

While the week allowed us to draw attention to programming and guest speakers, it is important to note that we have made significant commitments and investments to ensure there are resources and supports in place for our community year-round. 

Looking after our mental health and wellness should be a top priority for all of us. I believe we are finally reaching a point where the stigma surrounding these societal issues is disappearing. The normalization of sharing how we are doing and asking after others has become one of the welcome positive aspects of the lessons learned from the pandemic.  

The College is committed to providing tools and services to our AC community in a variety of ways. We recently hosted a podcast devoted to the topic of mental health and wellness. Laura Stanbra – Vice President Student Services; Caprise Perrineau –Health Promotion and Education Coordinator, and Doug Stringer – Manager, Counselling Services and the Spiritual Centre, discussed mental health resources, tips and advice, and shared helpful information. 

Our Student Support Services employees work diligently to ensure the needs of our learners are met in a variety of ways including The AC Purple Couch™, which promotes mental health awareness, and presents valuable mental health resources to support students and foster success throughout their college experience. Peer Support is also available through The Beacon: Health & Wellness Peer Support Space. You can chat with a trained Algonquin College student peer about mental health, sexual health and sexual violence, and substance use. Support is offered in a one-on-one, drop-in, non-judgmental, confidential, and accessible virtual space.  

I acknowledge that virtual learning has been a challenge to our learners. Virtual does not mean that you are alone. While service delivery has temporarily changed, you can reach out to faculty, staff, colleagues and friends with questions or discuss issues of concern. 

Being self-aware is also important. It is crucial to help you understand how you are feeling. Are you down because of the cold weather and feeling alone because of the pandemic, or is this a time where you need to ask for some additional help? Vulnerability is not a weakness. Asking for help is a brave thing to do. Putting yourself first and admitting you are not well is the first step to wellness.   

While we have many resources for our internal AC community, there are additional resources outside of the College that you can also explore: 

  • Ottawa Crisis Line – 613-722-6914 or 1-866-966-0991 or crisisline.ca  
  • Good 2 Talk – A professional counselling and information and referral telephone service is reachable by calling 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868 to access the Crisis Text Line.  
  • Big White Wall is a safe peer-to-peer mental health community that is accessible online 24/7. It’s free for all students and staff. In a time in which social isolation, loneliness and anxiety are already increasing mental health issues, COVID-19 is creating additional challenges. Find support right now at bigwhitewall.ca.  
  • BounceBack® is a free skill-building program managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). It is designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and stress or worry. Delivered over the phone with a coach and through online videos, you will get access to tools that will support you on your path to mental wellness. bouncebackontario.ca.  
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Hotline (services available in Cree, Ojibwe, Inuktitut, English, French) 1-855-242-3310 

I encourage all of you to check in on your classmates and friends. Take the time to ask how someone is doing. Reach out and say hello. Talk. Listen. Share. Become familiar with the tools and resources available to you. Most importantly, take care of yourself.   

Our College values are Caring, Learning, Integrity and Respect, and we take them very seriously. We care about you and the welfare of all our learners. We are here for you. You are not alone.