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President Michael Benarroch holds a signs that asks us to be mindful of each other

President Michael Benarroch

A message from President Michael Benarroch on mental health

January 26, 2021 — 

Every part of a university experience, from teaching and learning, to researching and supporting discovery, can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. A university is by its nature a challenging environment. From my own university experiences, and as a father of two recent university graduates, I empathize with the vulnerability and struggle that often accompanies academic life. When COVID-19 entered the equation, all our usual stresses were amplified. We have all been dealing with mental burdens beyond the norm.

So, let’s talk.

The University of Manitoba will again join more than 200 post-secondary institutions across Canada for a conversation about mental health on Bell Let’s Talk day, which this year is on Jan. 28. I encourage everyone in our community to take part in this day as we collectively work to remove the stigma of talking about, and addressing, mental health issues. 

UM is a community that exists to help one another thrive. Though mental health challenges can be complex, asking for help should be simple. We should all feel welcome to pursue the support we need.

If you see someone in distress, or if you feel—even to the slightest degree—that you want to speak to someone, reach out today. UM offers access to professionals who are highly trained and dedicated to offering help. Asking for help is one of the strongest things we can do, and asking others if they need help can be one of the most meaningful acts of compassion.

In April of 2020, one of our faculty members, Roberta Woodgate, a Canada Research Chair in Child and Family Engagement in Health Research and Healthcare, released a study that revealed what it is like for many youth living with anxiety. And in speaking with UM Today she said something that stuck with me. She said, “Many people assume anxiety is not a real thing, but it is very real and it’s not something you ‘just get over with’.”

That is why UM developed our mental health strategy Success Through Wellness after extensive consultations with community members and experts. The program offers an array of resources and it continues to expand. This year, for instance, the Student Counselling Centre hired three new counsellors and one intake/triage specialist.

I’m proud of the UM’s holistic strategy to mental health services and I want our community to use them. And as we continue our work in providing an outstanding experience for all our community members, let us be mindful of each other, and encourage each other to seek out ways to maintain positive mental health no matter where we are currently working or studying.

Let’s talk.

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