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Ending the stigma: HBA students talk mental health

  • Communications
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  • Mar 13, 2015
Ending the stigma: HBA students talk mental health

HBA students Micheline Singh and Vanessa Lam spent a weekend in Toronto with 200 other students, all who share one common passion: raising mental health awareness.

The students came together for the Jack Summit, an annual student-run movement designed to transform the way we think and talk about mental health. Organized by, the conference brings students from all over the country to Toronto to brainstorm and discuss ways to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

“At Ivey, we are in charge of our own initiatives,” Singh said, “so it was an amazing opportunity to talk to other people who are as passionate about mental health as we are.”

Singh and Lam are student leaders for the peer-to-peer network myHBA, created to support Ivey HBA students struggling with stress and mental health issues. The group offers in-person and online support and organizes wellness events at Ivey to help students de-stress and relax. Singh acts as the team’s External Coordinator while Lam serves as Internal Coordinator.

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Attending the Jack Summit

The Jack Summit was organized by and for students, demonstrating the great potential and passion Canada’s youth has.

The students attending the summit discussed where we currently sit with mental health, where we want to go with it, and how to bridge that gap. What kind of initiatives do we need to take now to get where we want to be?

Although difficult to pinpoint a favourite part of the summit, both Singh and Lam could list off a number of lessons they took away to bring back to their peers at Ivey.

“I met a girl from Winnipeg whose school has the lowest counsellor to student ratio across the entire country,” Lam said. “No administration will listen to them talk about mental health as a problem, let alone initiatives to help combat it. We’re going to need to go a lot further nationally to really eradicate this problem.”

“Particularly stunning for me was the idea of five in five,” Singh said. “One in five people struggle with personal mental health issues, but the other four in five still have mental health. Mental health is like physical health – we still have it and we’re still affected by it.”

Addressing mental health isn’t always an easy task, but there’s only one way to make progress: speaking up.

Moving forward with myHBA

Both students will graduate this year, but myHBA will stay at Ivey as new students take the reins.

“We have our peer support program, our confidential email, our website and our blog. We want next year’s committee to take that and build on it,” Singh said. “Make it better, make it larger in the community, and more ubiquitous in the School."

Although graduating soon, the two students aren’t done raising awareness at the School just yet. With just a few days of class left before final exams, HBA students are feeling stressed now more than ever. That’s why Lam and Singh have a special event up their sleeves.

On March 23, St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dogs will return to Ivey to help students de-stress. myHBA has another mental health-related activity scheduled for that day, inspired by what Singh and Lam learned at the Jack Summit.

“It’s under wraps. We want it to be a cool surprise,” Lam said. “Therapy dogs plus something special.”

Whatever they have planned, it’s sure to be something that will lift the spirits of the HBA students who attend. That is, after all, what myHBA is all about.