Today is a big day for commemorating the community members we have lost in the past and the future of our mental well-being here on the UofT campus. It also marks the second day of Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW19).
The UofT Mental Health Policy Council has organized a Rally For Students' Right to Mental Wellness (#OurLastChoiceUofT) today from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm (sign making and organizing 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm at and around Bahen; rally from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at King's College Circle) outside of Simcoe Hall around King’s College Circle leading up to and during the time when the Business Board of the Governing Council will meet in their Chamber on the 2nd floor of Simcoe Hall. The event currently has 115 people who have indicated that they are going and 435 interested as of 9:00 am today – without accounting for how this event has also been advertised on other channels and at a personal level as well. Campus, local and national media will be in attendance or have been informed about the rally, including but not limited to (mental health related content linked; warnings: mentions and discussions of severe mental illness) The Strand, The Mike, The Varsity, The Star, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, CBC Metro Morning, CBC Toronto News, and CBC The National.
It has been a time of sadness, frustration, anger, confusion, and hopelessness (among other emotions) within the UofT community. But it has also been a time for hope, change, care, compassion, love, empathy, listening, consultations, conversations, and many more things as students like us have supported each other and the larger community.
The grief and loss we have been experiencing is not something we should struggle with alone. Here is a list of some resources that fellow students have compiled, including some help lines, support centres, and on- and off-campus counselling options. Across the university, residence and commuter dons, the registrars and their offices, and the Dean’s Offices, and other staff and student support roles are there for you if you need or would like their help. As many of us know but (like myself) may find harder to practice: You do not have to be in a crisis to reach out – protect yourself by building supports and relationships with others even if and while you are mentally healthy.
If you want to learn more about students’ response, check out the U of T Mental Health Policy Council, How Many Lives movement, U of Thrive, Healing Hearts Through Art among others – these are grassroots groups of students that have organized to advocate for the mental wellbeing of the students on our campus.
The university needs to change how it supports students and our mental health, and we must advocate to the university and to our larger society at all levels of social organizations and politics so we can offer them our perspectives and what we want a new and improved system to look like. Therefore, we urge you, if you are comfortable and available, please come out to the main lobby of Bahen and pick up a ‘#’ to show support and solidarity for the students we lost and the students that continue to suffer because of a lack in services or organization/advertising/accessibility of services of mental health support. There are also printed copies of referrals to resources.
Please stay safe and work to become as mentally sound as you can, and we hope to see you all at the rally today if you have the ability and the capacity to attend.