MITT launches student mental health initiative

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Concerns about student isolation and well-being throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted the Manitoba Institute of Trades & Technology to provide free mental health training to pupils so they can support peers in uncertain times.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2022 (337 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Concerns about student isolation and well-being throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted the Manitoba Institute of Trades & Technology to provide free mental health training to pupils so they can support peers in uncertain times.

The Winnipeg-based school is touting its new program, entitled “More Feet on the Ground” as a first-of-its-kind resource among post-secondary institutes in the province.

The mental health literacy initiative, which consists of virtual case studies and workshops over two half-days, teaches students how-to recognize issues, respond to them in real time, and refer peers to school support services.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The school has adapted a curriculum created by the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, with the Ontario-based organization’s permission, to offer localized training.

“The major takeaway of this program is how to actively listen to people having mental health issues, how to make them feel comfortable to share their concerns, and make them feel they are being listened to,” said Harwinder Kaur, a 2021 MITT graduate who participated in the course when it was first rolled out in late 2020.

Kaur, who is originally from India, moved to Canada to study human resources in early 2020, weeks before campus — the one place she had counted on to make friends in a foreign city — suddenly became off-limits due to pandemic restrictions.

The self-described social student recalled feeling “complete isolation” while studying and working remotely, a feeling many of her peers shared, which is why she was intrigued about MITT’s mental health training.

The school has adapted a curriculum created by the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, with the Ontario-based organization’s permission, to offer localized training.

Kayla Hoskins, an accessibility student advisor at MITT, noted the training title suggests there is a need for more people on campus who are prepared to have frank conversations about well-being. One of the main goals of the live workshops is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, said the More Feet on the Ground facilitator.

“We teach (students) about the mental health continuum and we show them that in the span of your lifetime, you’re going to have periods in your life where your mental health is better and where it’s not so good. We need to reinforce the idea that everyone needs support sometimes,” Hoskins said.

In addition to learning how-to identify and manage personal challenges, the program educates students about recognizing concerning behaviours among others — ranging from agitation to social withdrawal.

The four “Rs” (recognize, respond, refer, reflect) are key tenets of the training.

“Respond is the big one,” Hoskins said. “Too often, we tell ourselves there’s nothing I can do or I don’t have training in this, so I shouldn’t get involved, or I’m going to make it worse.”

Hoskins added she hopes to be able to deliver the intimate sessions in-person when more face-to-face activity resumes on the Winnipeg campus.

Approximately 40 students have completed the sessions and in turn, received a training certificate to date. Another workshop is scheduled for later this month.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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