How these Laurier students are navigating mental health after pandemic high school experience
Dog walk event part of mental health awareness conversation for students
The last two pandemic years took a lot away from young people, especially students transitioning from high school to post secondary education.
The unusual school experience, which included being forced out of the classroom, learning online and cancelled social events led to challenges still being felt today.
"I was isolated at home and my school work was a bit different … So going into university, it was just a big change; the school was a bit harder than I expected," explained Lauren Sharland, a first year health science student at Wilfrid Laurier University.
"I was kind of behind on my academics because of all the changes in high school," she said, confessing her mental health has declined.
It's why she and more than 60 others turned out for a school-sponsored nature walk with puppies and dogs aimed at boosting mental health. The event was one of dozens planned by the university during its "Thrive week," to build positive mental health on campus.
Sharland said it's a good reminder to take a break and focus on taking care.
"Get out of your dorm … talk to people, go eat, just take care of yourself," she said.
Hari Adnani, a first year business student, describes the transition as a "real balancing act."
"Overall, it has been pretty challenging. Not to say that I haven't welcomed the challenge, but there are some things like learning to live with the roommate, figuring out what to eat every day, cooking and just keeping on track of my own life … keeping ahead in school or just keeping up," he said.
He said his own mental health is a "work in progress" and wants others to know, they're not alone.
And it's that sense of community that Aditya Shinde craves. The second year business student said he missed out on the social aspect of school because there weren't many events or gatherings held during the pandemic emergency.
"It helps increase people's social skills and things like that, which was not possible during the pandemic because everyone's at home," he said.
Mental health literacy
Sarina Wheeler, manager of wellness education at the university and the chair of Thrive on the Waterloo campus, said the university is prioritizing mental literacy for all students.
"We want to help them build some skills, learn about mental health and the resources available to them. We're going to boost their mood and want them to meet friends and have fun," she said.
The school offers resources for people looking for support and a slate of events, such as the nature walk with dogs.
Elle Teahen, a first year psychology student, came with her mom Courtney and two dogs.
"It's really important to just be outside, stay active and stay connected with someone," she said.
"It's really important to remember that everyone has struggled with something in their life. And although things may look perfect on social media, they're definitely not. People always have bad days."