Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MAD Student Society

Mad Students Society (MSS) is an organization run by and for students. MSS was created to provide peer support, advocacy and self-empowerment for students experiencing "mental health" issues in post-secondary institutions. You can check them out at the following website.

Whether you have a diagnosed mental illness or whether you just wonder if there is something "just not quite right," it is a good idea for all college students to have some information about mental illness. This is the age group where problems of this kind can start to show up and students often have misconceptions about what mental illness is. They think it can't happen to them.

Recently Margaret Trudeau,the former wife of Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1979)spoke in Belleville. She did not believe that she had a mental illness for many years and spoke of the poor decisions and choices she made; the suffering she put herself and loved ones through and her great delight in being well now and being able to encourage others to seek help. She told the audience that she is often called courageous to be so public about what is often seen as a shameful illness. Margaret Trudeau said she did not feel like it took courage; she just felt so happy to finally understand she had an illness that could be treated and she wanted to encourage anyone who is struggling to at least ask for help and get assessed.

Check out the posters around the school. “Face Mental Illness” features ordinary people who are out of the closet about their mental illness – face the reality of mental illness by learning more about it.

“Too few Canadians know about the burden of mental illness on our society, and too few sufferers seek help when they need it. Mental Illness Awareness Week seeks to raise awareness of the level of mental illness in Canada; to reduce negative stigma about mental illness amongst the general population and health care professionals…” MIAW

Mental Illness can happen to anyone, at any age. The World Health Organization says it is 4th in the top 10 disabilities world wide. One of the best strategies to prevent illness of any kind is making a commitment to yourself –Maintain balance with basic self care. A healthy diet, adequate sleep, physical activity, relaxation and a good support network of family and friends.

Some people view mental illness from a biomedical model; seeing it as a result of genetics and neurochemistry. Others view it from a psychosocial perspective; linking it to “life events.”
Both points of view have validity and however you view it, the stats are significant enough to suggest everyone will be touched by it in some way over their life – be it a family member, loved one, friend, co-worker or self.

This web site features the stories of the people you see in the “Face Mental Illness” posters around the school. The website also has lots of information on mental illness and the impact it has on individuals, families and communities.

Some great sites for information on mental illnesses.

This site is a good site for holistic information specific to depression. It also has a discussion group moderated by health professionals.


At last -you are totally your own boss at this point in your life –open to all possibilities. Making responsible choices about all the new possibilities will set standards for the rest of your life.

Use of any substance is going to be totally up to you. Some students use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to deal with stress. When you are finished drinking or smoking you are still stressed – you haven’t really dealt with the stress. As well, if you are using substances to deal with stress, you miss the opportunity to develop your own personal coping skills.

Some students use alcohol and drugs to feel more at ease in social situations. Again, if you don’t balance your use, you aren’t developing social skills, you are developing drug skills.

Binge drinking puts you at risk. (Binging is defined as 5 or more drinks in one session.) Every year students who thought it would never happen to them end up with alcohol poisoning. You are particularly at risk when you play drinking games.

Party smart and avoid binge drinking. Be creative – party drug and alcohol free. What a concept!

Learn to say NO. Don’t be led by the herd mentality. Be clear with yourself about making your own choices. No one makes you do anything at this point in your life. You are free to choose and free to be responsible for yourself.

Some party smart tips and info:

1) Go out with a group of friends you trust and have clear agreements about making sure everyone gets home safely.

2) Those most at risk for assault are those who are getting drunk frequently. Talk to a friend if you are concerned about their behavior. Encourage them to see one of the counsellors here at Loyalist.

3) Females and males have different notions about what they want when they are being "sexual." Females may be ok with kissing and some "making out" whereas males may feel this means they have permission for full sexual intercourse. It is important to know that whether you are male or female, you have the right to say "NO" at any point. Even if you have indicated you are ready for a full sexual encounter, you can say NO at any point. This is not bizzare behavior, nor is it "being a tease." This is adult, responsible behavior and people who call you names for the choices you make or make you feel ashamed do not have your best interests in their heart. This is not a person you want to be intimate with!

4) Alcohol and other drugs alter your awareness levels; that is why you use them, right? You want a break from your usual state of mind. Fine. Just remember that this is not a state in which you want to have a sexual encounter.

At this website choose "substance use" from the list of topics on the left and then choose "frequently asked questions (FAQs)" on the right for interesting facts on drugs and alcohol.

This site offer some good tips for “drinking smarts.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Overwhelmed yet?

A good tip for staying balanced is to be sure you are clear about your goals. What is it you want from this year?

Getting organized right at the beginning is going to make your year a LOT easier. Being organized can reduce your stress and increase your chances of success.

The student agenda is a great resource for keeping yourself organized. It also has information about all the support services available to students.

If you are not sure where to start – ask for help – Jodie in the Student Success Hub can point you in the right direction.

Student Success Mentors will be running workshops on Time Management , Study Skills and Managing Your Stress so check in with your Student Success Mentor early in the semester. They are also available to help you on a one to one basis.

Paying attention to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being will help you feel balanced. Be sure you are balancing fun time and academics - both are important.

Nourishing yourself physically can mean moving your body - a walk, climbing the stairs to get to class or playing on the intra school baseball team.

Physical nourishment also includes making sure to include fruits and vegetables in your daily meals, having some care about the amount of sugar and caffeine you put into your body and giving your body the chance to have 7-9 hours of restful, nourishing, replenishing SLEEP! Yes, sleep is something humans need.

Nourishing yourself emotionally includes spending time with people whose eyes light up when they see you, extending kindness to someone and noticing your own strong qualities.

Mental nourishment is almost a given at school. Here you are in college. Your mind has lots to be curious about and lots of interesting, knowledgeable people around. Your mind also enjoys vacations from its usual busy rounds so be sure to let your mind relax into a visualization or meditation. You can find some great meditations on YouTube - just type in relaxation and you will get a variety of different lengths and types.

To nourish yourself spiritually can mean time alone listening to music that feels like it soothes your soul. It might mean a few quiet moments in the garden or some quiet time thinking about qualities that are important to you such as kindness, forgiveness or generosity. Spirituality means different things to people but in general it refers to the sense of something bigger than just the physical body, bigger than just yourself.

These sites have great info particularly relevant to college students on issues of time management, study skills, social skills and dealing with stress to name a few.">">">

The Homesick Blues

This much I know. There are a lot of people out there feeling homesick. Once the excitement and newness and sense of freedom wears off and you start to settle in to college life; the homesick blues can hit.

You might think no one else is feeling like you; everyone else is too cool to care or they may seem really socially smooth. Believe me, there are lots of students feeling the same as you.

All those annoying family habits you were so happy to be free of, may now seem achingly sweet and far away. You couldn't wait to get here and now you can't wait for Thanksgiving to get home. Life is so funny like that. Once you are home for Thanksgiving, you might just be dying to get back to school again!

You will get through the blues - the homesickness does pass. Here are a few suggestions to help you make it through the night.

1) Talk to someone. Either a roomate you trust or a friend or classmate or let them know at home. Talk to your RA or make an appointment with one of our counsellors. Talking about it doesn't make you a failure - it will help lessen the distress. Allowing yourself to admit what you are feeling can help to start the letting go process.

2) Get out and get involved - school sports, student government activities, class group projects, study buddy or gym buddy - every one in their first year is in the same boat. Everyone is new and many are hesitant or shy. It can help to remember this as you try something new.

3) It's good to have familiar objects around you but take care not to spend all your time looking at photos of your beloved friends and family. Get out and look at some new faces.

4) Make a group meal with new roomates or invite some classmates for a pot luck.

5) Avoid making rash decisions about leaving college. It is important to give yourself time.

6) Don't go home every weekend. Start to build a life at school.

7) Be patient with yourself, give yourself time. It WILL pass.

Making New Friends at College

You made it. You have a life! You are getting a college education. The social scene is probably not what you are used to though. It might look sweet, but it might also look a bit intimidating.

You might have just come from high school where you've been with the same crowd for some time. You might have come out of the work force and you are used to a familiar group of co-workers and friends. Or, maybe you already have family, a job and a long-term set of social contacts. Whichever it is, the college social scene can seem exciting, challenging, daunting and even overwhelming.

College is a place where you can make life-long friends or where you can simply enjoy some light social contact with fellow students before you head back to family and well known friends.

Whichever is the case for you; friends are one of the great joys in life. One very important factor that determines how healthy a person is happens to be friendships. Studies show that people who have good supportive friends are ill less often and have greater longevity!

Commit to speaking to one new person every day this week. Or, at least commit to smiling at one person every day and see what happens. Studies show that behaving in a happy way (eg. smiling) can actually promote the feeling of happiness. A real example of “fake ‘till you make it.” Try the experiment.

Be comfortable and be yourself. Other students are just as nervous as you are. Trying to appear something you are not sets you up for discomfort.

If you want to make friends – be a friend – offer your help – lend a pen – participate in school sponsored events, set up study groups or meet for coffee.

If you are living in res – leave your door open – invite people in for a snack. Don’t use up all your time communicating by email with old friends from home – take some time to get out and meet some new people.

“The best way to experience true nurturing is to give true nurturing.” Caroline Myss

Good friends push us to develop the best in ourselves.

You can check out this site for ideas on how to develop some friendships, resolve conflicts and improve your communication skills.