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Making mental health a priority this year

Kelly Gutpell

Like many of you, I rang in the New Year with an exciting outlook on what 2015 would bring. The champagne was flowing, laughs were shared, and the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” was playing ad nauseum in the background. It was a New Year’s Eve for the ages.

Just days later, that optimism was replaced with a sinking feeling when I realized I have only one year left to finish my PhD.

If I know my fellow graduate students like I think I do, I am certain I was not alone in that feeling. These can be stressful times for us all. In particular, the stresses of graduate school compounded with the shortened daylight hours can undoubtedly result in low spirits. But have you ever wondered if there is something more to the anxiety, stress or “blue” feelings you are experiencing?

I am sure you have seen the Bell Let’s Talk Day commercials on the rise as January 28 quickly approaches. I think it is time that we continue that same discussion at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry by putting in the effort to change the way we think about mental health.

Supervisors are there to help keep you on your academic path, but do you have the proper resources to keep your mental health in check? A couple of years ago, I tried to make a counselling appointment on campus and was told the waiting period was approximately three months. While few of us may be certified counsellors, I promise you that creating a trusting and compassionate work environment has the power to help someone. I challenge you all to bring that to your labs this year.

Most importantly, if you do need professional help, please seek it out. You can contact the Student Development Centre (519.661.3031, Student Services Building) or Student Health Services (519.661.3030 or 519.661.3771, University Community Centre) any time during regular office hours, or call the London Crisis Response Line (519.433.2023) for immediate help any time after hours. If you're on Twitter, you can also follow the @WellnessWestern account for campus mental health information.

The Graduate Students Council has some really fun events planned over the next few months to help beat the winter blues and stresses of the daily grind. Trivia Night is going to make another appearance soon, and we are also planning the first ever student formal for all of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Get your ascots and petticoats out, because it’s time to dance!

Sincerely,

Kelly Gutpell, PhD Candidate, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Chair, Graduate Student Representatives, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry