This is the first in a contributor column by Zoe Lauckner. Check back next issue for the latest in Mental Health issues.

It’s that time of year again—students new and experienced come together on campus with the goal of learning in mind.

Though exciting times for many, university is commonly the most stressful time students have experienced in their lives so far. According to a 2006 study by Statistics Canada, 75 per cent of Canadian university students are between the ages of 17 and 27. Is it a coincidence that this age range is also the most susceptible to mental health issues? I can only speculate. I can say that education about mental health is an integral part of maintaining wellness and coping with the stress of studies.

Mental Health Matters is a new, bi-monthly column in The Navigator dedicated to increasing awareness around mental health-related topics. The intention is to create a safe and objective place for the exploration of a number of subjects ranging from psychiatric disorders and stigma to self-care and self-harm.

Because this is the first column in the series, let me introduce myself and why I’ve chosen to bring these topics to light. In 2013, I graduated from VIU with a BA. I returned to VIU to complete my Certificate in Community Mental Health Work. Since graduation, I have been working as a mental health worker within the public health sector. My work experience has been across a broad range of mental health services from detox and supported recovery houses to emergency and inpatient services. Now, on campus for my seventh year, I am working towards my Masters in Counselling Psychology.

Self-disclosure is a hot topic within the mental health field—clinicians are constantly assessing when and how to share their personal stories with clients in a way that is both helpful and ethical. Let me say this right from the get-go: I am not a clinician, a therapist, or an expert. This column is not a substitute for counselling, nor is it a be-all-end-all platform for getting all the mental health information you will need to make informed decisions. Mental Health Matters can serve as a stepping-stone for mental health education—some basic, foundational knowledge necessary in increasing awareness around these issues. Self-disclosure, when used properly, is a tool for building a relationship between clinician and client. We hear this notion of “Be the change you want to see,” and I want to see people become more comfortable talking about these issues. Therefore, throughout these columns I will be drawing upon my own lived experience with mental health issues, as well as bringing forward information from experts in the field. I will also be inviting collaboration from you, the student body, to send in your questions and comments or perhaps to share your own experience with mental health issues. Let’s work together to create a safe space to explore mental health – we are all in this together.

Next issue’s topic will focus on self-care. The beginning of the school year is a great time to develop a self-care plan to ensure that you make the most out of the year while minimizing stress. I will outline a number of resources to support you in this process, and invite you to be a participant in the discussion. Do you have some self-care strategies you’re using? I’d love to hear about them – send me an email at MentalHealthMattersVIU@gmail.com and your strategy may be featured in the next column.

Stay sane(ish), VIU! Until next time…