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Changing the conversation

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

A team of 25 male students has been given an opportunity to help first year male students ease into life at Queen’s University. Thanks to a $1.7 million grant from Movember Canada, Heather Stuart and her colleagues Shu-Ping Chen (Public Health Sciences) and Terry Krupa (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) will work to create a campus wide effort to improve mental health as it relates to substance use.

The focus of Movember Canada is men’s mental health.

Dr. Heather Stuart

The first activity is a student summit on Sept. 12 and 13 where the group will learn more about the link between substance use and mental health and also brainstorm ideas for campus activities. The goal behind the activities will be engaging the campus to create sustainable cultural change.

“We want a caring campus environment that is student-led,” says Dr. Stuart (Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and Public Health Sciences). “These 25 students are going to be the leaders. Some in the group have also had personal experiences which will put a face on mental health and substance use. This group is inspiring.”

Research assistant Josh Decaire is working with the Queen’s Movember team on the project. He said the 25 students are enrolled in a variety of disciplines and are mainly in their second year of study. To be hired, applicants had to write a letter explaining what they would bring to the group.

“All of the members of the group are concerned about the culture of substance use and over use,” says Mr. Decaire. “We also have members where overuse has started to affect them. Mental health on campus is getting more and more attention and these students are going to be leaders.”

Dr. Stuart, the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Chair, says the group is still taking shape and she wants the students to establish programs, targets and goals. “I want them to create something that will lead to substantive change. This program lasts for three years and after that, I hope there is a solid infrastructure in place so the program continues. It’s a group that will be asking their peer group to change the conversation.”

For more information on the Movember funding read the Queen’s News Centre story.