#LETSTALK Mental Health Workshop: Recap

Did you know 1 in 5 Canadians personally experience a mental health problem or illness, in any given year? Maybe you know someone – a friend, family member, colleague, or spouse – who struggles with mental health issues and challenges.

On September 26, 2019, WiSER provided a platform to students, professionals, and the wider university community to discuss challenges, triumphs, and stigmas, all on the topic of mental health. #LetsTalk Mental Health was the first in a series of WiSER’s professional development events – it was only fitting to begin with a topic that affects people of all walks of life, in all disciplines. 

Image depicting the five panelists: Sophie Gray, Jamie Bay, Raffela Manusco, Jasmine Bajwa, and Dr. Jacqueline P. Leighton.

The event kicked off with a keynote from Sophie Gray, founder of DiveThru, a mental wellbeing app that features guided journaling exercises that help you drive through what you go through. In her signature refreshing, down-to-earth manner, Sophie connected with our attendees, assuring them that even if they hit their lowest point, “Mental health does not define you.” With an impressive list of accomplishments, Sophie herself is an example of what you can do when you learn to work with your mental health, instead of ignoring, or fighting it.

Joining Sophie after her keynote were four talented, successful women with expertise in mental health and wellness: certified life coach and founder of The Wellness Warrior, Jamie Bay; registered psychologist and professor from the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Alberta; Dr. Jacqueline P. Leighton, mental health and body positivity advocate; undergraduate psychology student Raffela Mancuso; and front-line expert from the Faculty of Engineering satellite psychologist, Jasmine Bajwa.

Each panelist brought fresh, interesting perspectives to common concerns around handling mental health. While Raffela provided insight on society’s aspirations to be a person that does everything and anything they possibly can, Dr. Leighton’s observations on work-life balance gave our audience members a new, unapologetic, way about looking at the way we live our lives: “It seems that we internalize that there’s one way to live… But what do we really want?”

One attendee’s comments can summarize the event’s overall tone: “I felt heard. I felt like the speakers actually knew what I was going through, and their advice and suggestions made me feel less alone.”

WiSER was proud to organize an event that provided a platform for leaders in our community to share their insights and struggles with the wider campus community – following the event, participants were invited to unwind with Thrive Yoga’s yoga and meditation instructor, Kathleen Norman, through a mindfulness yoga session. We kindly thank the following sponsors for their support: Kristen Oates, University of Alberta Campus & Community Recreation, and Wellness on Whyte.

Upcoming WiSER professional development events, like this one, may be counted towards professional development hours for both graduate students and professionals – keep up to date with future events in the series by keeping an eye on WiSER’s social media, and let us come right to you with our monthly newsletter!


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