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Cambrian student support advisers offer mental health help

Staff and students at Cambrian College were handing out popcorn as food for thought yesterday.

The scent of popcorn was used at Cambrian College to get students to stop and think about mental health

Cambrian College student support adviser Roni Sue Brown. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)
Yesterday was a national day to talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness. The scent of popcorn was used at Cambrian College to get students to stop for a moment and talk about the issue. The CBC's Kate Rutherford was there to gather some sound. 4:55
Staff and students at Cambrian College were handing out popcorn as food for thought yesterday.

They were raising awareness about mental health in conjunction with Bell Let's Talk Day.

Last year, Bell provided just $11,000 to Cambrian to train four staff members in mental health first aid.

Student support adviser Roni Sue Brown said they're qualified to detect signs of mental distress and offer assistance.

The support is needed, as Brown says more students are taking counselling.

“I have read many studies where definitely college-age or post secondary, so whether it's college or university, they are struggling with much more heavy issues,” she said.

Aboriginal student support worker Rosalie Henderson said word of mouth is helping to publicize Cambrian's culturally appropriate support services.

“For the most part, our aboriginal students don't reach out when something is going on,” she said.

“However I'm seeing change this year. More so, students are reaching out — male and female.”

Jessie Cartwright, who was offering bags of popcorn to get fellow students to stop and chat about the issue, said he’d like to see the issue discussed more often.

“I don't think we talk about it enough really, having one day. It should be every day.”

Henderson was demonstrating how to make a medicine pouch. She said tradition teaches them that the contents protect the wearer from negativity.

She noted it’s often more difficult for aboriginal students to ask for help if they're in mental distress.

“Culturally, they're just more reserved ... so it takes a lot of courage for them to reach out.”

She estimated there are 500-600 aboriginal students at Cambrian.

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