By Ally Matas.
Being a student is exhausting, challenging, and often isolating. Despite having thousands of other comrades fluttering about you, all with the common goals of getting a good spot in the library or seeing what fresh hell the cafeteria has to offer, one can feel remarkably alone. I ought to know; during my first year I was like a fish out of water, or rather a fish thrown into much bigger water, where balancing coursework and a social life nearly drowned me. I became anxious and depressed, and was found without confidence or good grades. The nature in which universities deal with mental illness is tactful in their promotion, yet questionable in their response. Dissatisfied with the clubs and counselling, I sought some other resource that would equally compliment my disastrous GPA and my growing lonesomeness, and thus I took another more mental illness focused look at academic societies. Here, I interviewed the executives of PAUSE, the Psychology Association of Undergraduate Students at Erindale, to get a better understanding of the role of academic societies, and of this one in particular, in a student’s mental and academic life, and to understand what that relationship is all about.
What is an academic society, and what is PAUSE?
Pei-Ning Kwok, Web Communication Director: P.A.U.S.E is an acronym for Psychology Association for Undergraduate Student at Erindale.
Vanessa Demello, Secretary: Academic societies consist of students who aim to assist other students through their undergraduate years here at UTM through different events that we hold and by giving students access to past tests. PAUSE seeks to provide all students at UTM the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of the diverse field of psychology. PAUSE aims to keep its members and UTM community informed of psychology related opportunities both on and off campus.
Fatima Setak, V.P External: PAUSE also seeks to bridge the gap between students and professors through events like Meet the Professors Night and Professor Luncheons.
How do students benefit from academic societies?
Vanessa Demello: Students benefit from academic societies as it is a way for students to connect with other students within their program. Whether it is questions on courses, professors, or anything they would wish to ask, they can ask us!
Priyanka Sahajpal, Marketing Director: Students can get a hold on to various resources that academic societies provide for them. Ranging from past tests to building a wide range of networks, students are constantly exposed to opportunities. Academic societies help students dig deeper to discover what their subjects posts are all about, they make the subject post interest grow stronger.
What are your personal goals for PAUSE as an academic society?
Fatima Setak: Personally, I see PAUSE as a community on campus where psychology students can interact together during the various events and expand their circle of friends. Since many of our events are targeted to students from all academic years, psychology students can meet people outside their year of study and acquire peer-mentorship. My personal goal for PAUSE is to help students beyond academics by giving them opportunities to network.
What are your views on how mental illness is dealt with on university campuses, specifically UTM?
Priyanka Sahajpal: How UTM deals with mental illness is extraordinary. The Health and Counselling centre respects each individual and has several resources to help the person in need. The UTM campus takes mental illness very seriously by providing advertisements on local TVs all around campus about how a student can attain access to Health and Counselling services. There are posters pinned up around the campus to inform students that we have them covered. PAUSE prepares annual destressor goodie bags and hands them out to students to help them lessen the burden of school, work, family, etc. The goodie bag also has information on what numbers to call for emergency or under severe stress.
As an academic society, how important is it to you to provide mental illness resources for students, especially as the Psychology society? Personally, as director of this society, is it important to you?
Kayla Carter- Bradbury, President: Our goal as an academic society is to improve the student experience. We aim to connect people to the resources that they need in order to succeed. We try to improve the transition that students go through when coming to university from high school. Our goal is to make university seem less intimidating, and to try to create a more welcoming environment. University can be very difficult to navigate at first, so we help guide fellow students in the right direction.
As the marketing director, what have you done to provide resources for students dealing with mental illness? How do you reach out to students?
Priyanka Sahajpal: As one of the marketing directors at P.A.U.S.E, I am responsible for providing resources to all students. We have recently done a P.A.U.S.E and Smile event, in which we prepared goodie bags as stress relievers. Depression, anxiety, chronic stress are all illnesses that a majority of students go through during exam time, so to put a load off their chests, the P.A.U.S.E team makes annual destressor goodie bags. In the goodie bags, we have provided students with candy, pens, bookmarks, brochures on how to deal with stress, time management, the warning signs for too much stress, and several relaxation techniques, along with motivational quotes. We had the marketing assistants distribute the goodie bags, and asked students to write down ways in which they deal with stress. According to the marketing assistants, a majority of students gave positive feedback, said they appreciated the goodie bags and claimed that the effort made their day.
Who on campus should be held accountable for providing resources to students who are struggling with mental health issues – academic societies, specific clubs, the institution, or someone else entirely?
Vanessa Demello: I believe that academic societies, the students union (UTMSU), the athletic council (UTMAC) and the Health and Counselling centre all take part in creating an environment that makes students feel safe, and aware of mental illnesses as well as treatments. As students we come to this institution to learn about topics within our program, but learning to deal with stress and balancing our lifestyle is important in creating a positive impact in our academic lives.