TIMMINS, ON: Northern College is hosting Real Talk, a conference focused on student mental health and wellness. The conference has been organized by Bridging the Distance, a consortium formed by Cambrian College, Canadore College, Confederation College and Northern College with a focus on student mental health. Bridging the Distance is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities through its Mental Health Innovation Fund.
50 students from Cambrian, Canadore, Confederation, Northern and Sault colleges will be attending Real Talk. The two-day conference begins today and will give attendees a chance to network, learn and share experiences regarding student mental health and wellness.
“Northern College’s dedication to accessibility takes on many forms,” said Fred Gibbons, President of Northern College. “Through initiatives like Bridging the Distance and Real Talk, we’re working to create new and improved resources for our students, and to increase awareness about mental health issues. By fighting stigma and providing support, we can help all of our students achieve their personal and educational goals.”
Kimberley Carter, Chair of the Mental Health Network at the University of British Columbia, will be providing the conference’s keynote address. Carter has a passion for health promotion and student engagement, and has been involved in many post-secondary mental health initiatives. She will also share a personal story about suicide.
Suicide awareness is a major focus of Real Talk. Sault Ste. Marie’s Family Life Theatre will perform Quiet Cries, a short play about signs of suicide risk. Students will also attend safeTALK Suicide Awareness for Everyone, a workshop which teaches participants how to recognize, engage with, and provide support to a person who may be having thoughts of suicide.
Other workshops at the conference include personality dimensions and art painting and journaling. Through the personality dimensions session, participants will gain a deeper understanding of their own personality, and learn to enhance self-esteem and improve interpersonal communication. Art painting and journaling will demonstrate how creativity can enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
“One of the best parts of Real Talk is that it’s a pan-northern conference. Students from five colleges in northern Ontario can come together to candidly discuss their own experiences and needs in addressing mental health challenges,” said Nichole Roy, Student Life Advisor at Northern College and Mental Health Project Coordinator with Bridging the Distance. “It’s a great opportunity for college students to learn what has worked elsewhere and to collaborate on new ideas. We hope that participants leave the conference much better equipped to increase awareness and provide support for mental health challenges at their home colleges.”
Real Talk begins at noon today, and will conclude at 2:00 p.m. Saturday. All conference activities will take place at Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa.
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