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UFV’s Mental Health Awareness Club to offer mental health first aid training

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The topic of mental health gained a great deal of attention in recent years, but that sort of publicity doesn’t just occur naturally. It is the result of hard work and countless hours of time from organizations like UFV’s own mental health awareness club (MHAC). The MHAC has made it their goal to “raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues” by “opening up conversations about mental health, mental wellness, and self-care,” according to the club’s VP of public relations, Tanya Tomsic. “We try to encourage students that self-care is important, and it’s okay to take care of yourself and to talk about your feelings and experiences.”

This June, the MHAC is hosting a two-session mental health first aid training course at UFV, available at a discounted rate for students.

“The mental health first aid course is just so in line with our group ideals — particularly around stigma and judgement,” explained Tosmic. “We felt that giving students the opportunity to learn more about mental health issues that they may either experience or watch someone else experience is a great way to raise awareness and help reduce discomfort about helping people in distress.”

The nationally recognized training program leads to a lifelong certification that covers a wide range of topics.

“Depression, anxiety, substance misuse, suicidal ideation,” Tomsic listed. “And the focus is really on helping you to react to finding someone in distress, being comfortable talking to them, helping to bring the person some comfort, and then how to direct them to a professional resource. It’s the same principle as regular first aid except this first aid is for non-physical crises.”

The training is being offered at a cost of $75 to high school or post secondary students, and $100 to others. It takes place over the course of two Saturdays, June 17 and 24, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at UFV, but space is limited.

According to Tomsic, “The response has been overwhelming — we are receiving emails every day about the course! We don’t actually reserve a seat for someone until they have paid for their course materials, so there are still some spaces available, but the number is dwindling fast.”

The MHAC is not solely about serious training, however, their most recent event was the first in what they plan to be a series of “You Meme Something” events, where club members volunteered their time to hand out free chilled teas on the green, along with a selection of their favourite memes and pamphlets regarding mental health. Tomsic said that the club intends to continue with the meme-themed events over the summer (with “some additional surprises” in the works), followed by at least one more currently-unannounced event this summer, and a panel on men and mental health in the fall.

Tomsic also encouraged anyone and everyone to take part in the club, saying, “Whether you have any experience with mental health issues or not, it doesn’t matter.”

In addition to their events, the MHAC meets every second week during the summer semester, at times and locations posted on their Facebook page. The meetings consist of a feelings check-in and event brainstorming, but also sometimes include a guest speaker. For students looking to get even more involved, there are currently six executive positions open for nominations, with voting set to occur at their end-of-June annual general meeting. You don’t have to be a seasoned MHAC veteran to put your name forward, either: “Elections are open to anyone and everyone, and we love the fresh perspective that new people bring into the club!” said Tomsic. “We are looking for people who are able to commit their time to weekly meetings and helping out with events — aside from an open mind, caring spirit, and enthusiastic attitude, there is no need for other experience. It would be fantastic to see a number of people submit nominations for the different positions.”

To find out more about the mental health first aid program, the upcoming elections, or the club in general, the MHAC can be contacted at mhac.ufv@gmail.com.

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