A new student mental health initiative is ringing in the school year with bi-weekly meetings and a promise to get administration on board with mental health awareness.
Students for Mental Awareness, Support and Health (SMASH), which ratified in March, was created for students by students with the mandate to spread awareness on campus and promote a more understanding approach to mental health issues.
Potential upcoming events include a dodgeball tournament to raise funds for a youth mental health organization and collaborations with other student groups on campus during Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which runs from Oct. 5 to 11.
SMASH held its first meeting in September to discuss plans for events that will advocate for better mental health awareness on campus.
The group’s first order of business is to work with Ryerson’s administration to put a peer-to-peer support system in place for students. This initiative will offer students in need a person with whom to connect.
“We recognized the need for it last year, and this year we are really trying to push for it,” said fourth year graphic communication management student and SMASH co-creator Liz Wood.
Though Ryerson already has on-campus student support from the Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC), Wood said SMASH can offer support in its own way.
“The counselling centre is awesome because it offers more professional help, but we have the relatability factor. We can understand if you’re stressed at school, because we’re stressed at school,” Wood said. “We have that kind of connection because we can understand the student’s struggle.”
Currently, SMASH has 14 members on its roster, and is looking to add more.
“If you’re a Ryerson student you are free to be a member and you are free to decide how much you want to commit,” said Wood. “If you just want to be a volunteer, you can. If you just want to attend some events, you can. If you want to work on the executive team, you can. It’s really up to you.”
Wood said SMASH is about more than just people struggling, getting together and talking.
“Whether you have a mental illness or not, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has mental health. When you’re stressed because of an assignment — which everyone is — if we can offer you support in some way, that’s improving your mental health.”