Student initiative drives mental health support
For Queen’s Law students Jaclyn Greenberg and Naheed Yaqubian, doing well is more than just getting the best grades and good jobs—it’s about mental health and well-being. So the two students teamed up with the administration at Queen’s to launch a new project aimed at reducing stigma about mental health issues and, most importantly, improving the mental health of their peers.
“The Happyness Project is about helping oneself and supporting each other,” says Ms Greenberg (Law ’13), who founded the project with Ms Yaqubian (Law ’14). “The project denies the notion that because we’re in a hyper competitive environment, like law school is, that we can’t be there for each other. We can be and we should be. We don’t want people to feel ashamed for living with a disability, a mental health issue, or a chronic health condition.”
While the Happyness Project is being promoted by Ms Greenberg and Ms Yaqubian, it is run entirely by Helen Connop, the manager of education and equity services in the faculty. This is to ensure that the privacy of project participants is respected. Ms Connop will match students with other students according to the students’ shared lived experiences, such as living with anxiety, depression or a chronic health condition.
“I’m delighted to be working with the students to co-ordinate this program,” says Ms Connop. “I think it has the potential to grow over time in ways that will bring about meaningful change to the culture of the law school for students with disabilities, chronic health conditions and mental health issues. One student told me the other day he liked how this program offers opportunities for students to connect with other students having similar, lived experiences so it’s not just a 'one way street' of getting peer support.”
Project participants will sign a confidentiality undertaking, and in that respect, the project is grassroots, helping one pair of students at a time. The hope is that students can swap best practices and coping strategies.
“The idea is that if you learn how to carve out space for yourself and the things that make you happy,” says Ms Greenberg. “You can and should share that with someone who experiences the same challenges you have, and who has to manage those in the same context of a demanding degree and career.”
For more information, contact Ms Connop by email or at ext. 78147.