BRANDON – As Canadians mark Bell Let’s Talk Day to focus on mental health, Brandon University (BU) is working to keep the discussion going.
Activities are happening all week long in the Mingling Area and across campus, including de-stress booths, massages, anxiety-reducing activities — and even puppies. It’s part of Brandon University’s ongoing work to promote and support mental health and wellness initiatives.
“Over the past decade, Let’s Talk and Mental Health Week have really helped Canadians raise the prominence of mental health, but it’s very concentrated at the end of January,” said Dr. Rachel Herron, director of BU’s Centre for Critical Studies of Rural Mental Health. “This spring, we are inviting everyone to a huge community gathering to help mental health conversations continue all year long.”
The “Mental Health on the Prairies Conference and Community Gathering” will be held at BU from April 29 through May 1 as one of many BU initiatives making space for the community to talk about mental health. The gathering will bring together people who experience mental health problems, people who provide support and services for mental health, and people who research mental health to discuss experience, needs and solutions.
“We are combining traditional research presentations with fun experiential activities and a community forum in an innovative way that will be interesting and engaging for people of every background,” Herron said. “Everyone is encouraged to attend all aspects of the event.”
The gathering will see more than 65 people sharing their stories as researchers, service providers, and people with lived experience of mental health problems.
The first evening of the event will kick off with a public keynote by former Wheat King star Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk player in history to be drafted by the NHL. Tootoo’s talk will focus on creating a culture of inclusivity to promote mental health. Tickets are now on sale at the Westman Centennial Auditorium.
Leading researchers on mental health from across Canada will bring their expertise to the event, including Dr. Michael Ungar, who is a Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dalhousie University. Dr. Ungar will talk about nurturing resilience through strong community during the first day of the event.
On the second day, Dr. Caroline Tait from University of Saskatchewan and Devon Napope, a First Nations advocate, will combine years of research with the art of spoken word poetry to deliver a powerful call to action.
Building on the conference themes of resilience, vulnerability and social justice, participants in the meeting will also have an opportunity to actively engage by ‘walking in others’ shoes’ during experiential activities, including a poverty simulation, a forced displacement exercise, a blanket exercise, and a virtual dementia tour. Participants can choose one of the experiences to attend.
“Ultimately, we want to bring together applied experts like those working on the front lines and people with lived experience, with academic experts from across the country, to share knowledge and engage in critical conversations about community-based mental health research and solutions,” Herron said.
“We encourage people to continue the conversation and take action about mental health in the upcoming conference and community gathering.”
For more information, visit the conference website at BrandonU.ca/mhp.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Rachel Herron
Director, Centre for Critical Studies of Rural Mental Health
Director, Marketing and Communications