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U of A's mental health vodcasts aimed at those on campus who feel isolated or alone

The idea was to make people feel less alone when dealing with mental health issues. The result was a series of videos available to students and staff at the University of Alberta.

The six videos will be used in mental health training for staff and students

The six-part video series UAlberta Cares focuses on mental health issues facing students and staff at the University of Alberta. (Jeff Allan Productions Inc.)

The idea was to make people feel less alone when dealing with mental health issues. The result was a series of videos — or vodcasts —  available to both students and staff at the University of Alberta.

The six videos, called the UAlberta Cares Vodcasts, were co-created by Peter Lougheed Leadership College scholars and Jeff Allan Productions, a professional production team and will be used as mental health training videos.

On Monday night, the videos were played for an audience at the Garneau Theatre on 109th Street.

In one of the videos, Dinuka Gunaratne, a career education co-ordinator at the U of A, speaks about dealing with students who are in crisis and his struggles relating to them because of some of his personal experiences as a former student and immigrant. 

"It became very difficult to articulate to myself how I could best support these students, because it was just too personal," Gunaratne said in the video. "That kind of got me in a mind space where I was not doing the best for myself, because I was losing sleep. I was overthinking."

Molly Henneberry, a sport performance student, helped produce the videos focusing on the mental health of U of A staff, something she feels isn't talked about enough.

"I hope that these videos will encourage leaders in different departments to reach out to their staff before mental health becomes an issue, and [to] open up conversations so bosses are able to make it known that they're available to talk about mental health," Henneberry said.

Molly Henneberry, a sport performance student, helped produce the UAlberta Cares videos focusing on mental health issues faced by U of A staff. (Supplied/Molly Henneberry)

The videos have been in the works since September.

"One thing that really struck all of us during this project was how many people on this campus feel alone or isolated or have a little bit of imposter syndrome," said Cristina Stasia, director of instruction at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

"And as we did the interviews, as we spoke to staff, faculty, undergrads and grad students, we realized that everyone was really eager to turn towards each other and have these discussions."

Mental health resources and issues continue to be a focus of students at the University of Alberta.

At a campus rally on March 13, a group of undergraduate students voiced frustration over a rising demand for mental health resources, which led to long wait lists or students being turned away. The rally was a response to the eviction of a student from residence after he tried to commit suicide.

Carlos Jarquin, a design student, worked on the video series as a production liaison. When he enrolled at the university three years ago, he didn't know there were resources to help with his mental health.

He hopes the videos get the message across and decrease the stigma that people face when dealing with mental wellness.

"There are supports out there for anyone, regardless of their background or situation," Jarquin said. "And by this vodcast we hope that it will reduce that stigmatization, to allow them to seek the necessary supports to strengthen their own mental wellness."

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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