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March 27 - April 2 2014


Mental Health

photograph by daryll hinves

Here comes the sun: students look forward to spring DAryll Hinves The long, cold and dreary winter months can take a large toll on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. This type of depression, more commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal-cycled depression, can be unbearable to some. “It’s a feeling of doom and gloom,” said Andrew Semkow, a Media Fundamentals student. “Everything is miserable, the things I love don’t mean much to me.” SAD has a lot of triggers, according to Cheryl Cnoop-Koopmans, a Sheridan Student Services counsellor. “There are a lot of theories about where it comes from,” she said. “The amount of light outside, shorter days, reduced levels of activity, being unable to go outside, there are a lot of factors that make depression worse during the winter.” According to the Canadian Mental Health Association,

SAD affects an estimated two or three per cent of the population in Ontario alone, while the less severe “winter blues” affect 15 per cent. Nate Merhar, a Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences: Information Systems Security student, began feeling the winter blues at the beginning of his teenage years. “I started feeling down in the winter when I realized that I was too old for making snowmen and snow angels and all that fun stuff, around age 15,” he said. “I feel like I can’t do many things that I enjoy doing outside due to the cold and snow. It makes me feel like I’m not really doing much with my life.” When it comes to treating SAD, there are a wide variety of options out there to suit anybody. “Trying to get exercise even when you can’t go outside can help,” said Cnoop-Koopmans.

It’s a feeling of doom and gloom. Andrew semkow

Media Fundamentals “Being engaged in activities that make you happy, some students find that having indoor plants can help just by keeping a little piece of nature around.” Sheridan also offers free counselling to full time students, support groups, meditation circles, athletic therapy and a list of trained counsellors and doctors available to help students in need. For students who find that they are really suffering,

Cnoop-Koopmans recommends light therapy from a light box, which mimics natural sunlight. Emma Butson, an Art Fundamentals student, used a light box to treat her winter blues, and felt a change in her mood. “I sat in front of the light for 20 minutes a day. You had to sit at a certain angle for the light to hit your eyes in a specific spot,” said Butson. “A couple hours after using it I felt better and more awake.” When it comes to supporting and helping loved ones with any form of mental illness, Cnoop-Koopmans says it’s important to put things in

The trees outside the residence buildings are smiling at the departure of winter and arrival of spring. perspective. “The most important thing is to have an open-mind when you’re listening,” she said. “The key elements of counselling are being attentive and active in your listening. Your empathy has to be real and you have to really care about who you’re talking to and what you’re hearing. You have to validate their feelings and show them that you understand.”

SHERIDANtalk aims to break barriers surrounding mental health June seo Innovators from the mental health world will join Sheridan students to “break the barrier” about mental health issues. On April 9, health and wellness peer mentors will hold a SHERIDANtalk featuring Eric Windeler, founder of The Jack Project, Arthur Gallant, Bell’s 2013 Faces of Mental Health, Mark Henick, a TEDx Toronto speaker, and a few student speakers. “We want people to understand that mental illness is not on the outside. If you don’t know somebody who has a mental health illness, you don’t understand how it is, how delicate they may be or what they go through on a dai-

ly basis,” said Suzanne Sarhan, a second-year Social Service student and a health and wellness peer mentor. Sheridan is working to open the conversation around mental health because one in five Canadians (according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) experience mental health and addiction problems. “We want to make it a very open conversation and a non-judgmental, safe environment,” said Sarhan. SHERIDANtalk was inspired by and follows the concept of a TED Talk. TED is a non-profit organization that works to spread ideas through powerful talks. “It’s going to be kind of a

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mixture of a TED Talk and Unleash the Noise, both having the components of hearing speakers and having brain storm sessions,” said Cheryl Cnoop-Koopmans, a student advisement counsellor. Unleash the Noise is an initiative started by The Jack Project and run by students, which hosts the Student Mental Health Innovation Summit. The Jack Project is a charitable organization devoted to the legacy of Jack Windeler, a Queen’s University student who committed suicide. The organization was founded in 2010 by Jack’s parents, Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington, with the aim of having “No More Silence” around the topic of mental health issues.

Justine Howard, a health and wellness peer mentor, will be one of the student speakers. “I’m a very open person and I’ve had certain life experiences that have allowed me to accept that I need to be open and talk about things,” said Howard. The student speakers will share their experiences with the direct and indirect impacts of mental health. “We feel the student speakers are the ones who will reach out to other students the most because it helps them relate to mental health on a student to student level,” said Sarhan. People who attend the event will talk to local experts and get involved in discussion groups and a question and an-

swer panel with the speakers. SHERIDANtalk will address initiatives including Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Day, Opening Minds, What a Difference a Friend Makes and Unleash the Noise: Innovation Summit on Mental Health. Mentality Matters, a new club at Sheridan, will also be at the event. “We’ll be talking about the different illnesses and how to support someone who has a mental health illness as a family member, a student, a teacher or as a friend,” said Muna Nawabit, president of Mentality Matters. Attendees will leave SHERIDANtalk with a certificate of attendance and an informed mind about mental health.

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