Mental health was the focus of an art showcase held in the Davis Centre on March 28 by UW Peer Health Education (PHE). The showcase featured different art forms, including paintings, digital art, and poetry, created by UW students from across faculties and inspired by the impact and importance of mental health. The event also featured information booths from Jack.org, Thrive, and Changing the Flow, which provided education on suicide prevention, mental wellness, and menstrual equity.
Many of the student artists drew on their own experiences with mental illness. Artist Jennifer Lee submitted two series of drawings. The first, titled Angry, Happy, Sad, is an exercise Lee did during cognitive behavioural therapy to recognize and feel certain emotions. In the second, Behind Closed Curtains, Lee drew two portraits. One shows a figure lying prone with a haunted, empty expression, while the other contains a figure with flowing hair covering their face.
In the artist’s statement, Lee discusses the difficulty of living with recurrent depression. “It’s possible to be doing all the right things and still relapse, which can be frustrating and discouraging. It can be hard at the time, but you can take some small solace in the fact that you are not alone and that, by recognizing early signs and getting treatment, the severity and duration of these episodes can be diminished.”
Another moving piece was created by Jacqui Mason, a fine arts studio major. The piece, called Perspectives, is a series of prints arranged in the shape of a cross. The central print is covered in small handwriting that is a combination of questions and advice, including the phrase “change is okay” repeated over and over.
In the artist’s statement, Mason says, “Perspectives is about the journey and toll religion/spirituality can take you on as you are faced with death and unfair suffering in this world.”
The art showcase was put together by the mental health team from UW PHE. The team of student volunteers works to promote mental well-being and raise awareness about mental illnesses. They are one part of UW PHE, which also has teams that focus on physical health, sexual health, and substance use. The organization aims to promote physical and mental wellness as well as academic success. Throughout the year, they run other events, including the orientation week informational musical, To Be Honest. Applications are currently open for UW students to join. More information about PHE is available on their Instagram, @uwhealthyu.
The mental health team of PHE is also part of the Waterloo chapter of Jack.org. This Canada-wide charity is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma around youth suicide. It focuses specifically on empowering young people to improve mental health in their communities. The organization was started in 2010 by Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington, who lost their son Jack to suicide while he was in his first year of university. Each semester, the mental health team runs at least one event to start a conversation on youth suicide prevention.
This showcase highlighted that mental illness is difficult and impacts every facet of life. At the same time, it emphasized that help is available, recovery is possible, and that you are not alone.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health, there are supports available on and off-campus. The following resources are highlighted on the Peer Health Education website. UW Counselling Services is located in Needles Hall North on the second floor or you may reach them at 519-888-4567 ext. 42655. They offer individual appointments, as well as seminars and workshops. UW MATES is a one-to-one peer support program offered by WUSA. Move Your Mind is a service offered by Athletics and Recreation to help students experience the benefits of physical activity on mental health. Good2Talk (1-866-925-5454) is a post-secondary helpline that offers free, confidential counselling 24/7/365. Here 24/7 (1-844-437-3247) is a helpline that helps people in Waterloo Region access addictions, mental health and crisis services provided by 11 agencies across the Waterloo Wellington region. This helpline can help with intake, assessment, referral, crisis, and waitlist and appointment booking.