From Nov. 7 to Nov. 11, the Arts OASIS and McGill Arts Health and Wellness Project collaborated to hold Arts Health and Wellness Week (AHAW). AHAW was a week of activities and seminars to help students de-stress and learn about mental health. Events included The Happiness Workshop, an educational session on how to maintain a positive mindset, and the Salad Jar Workshop, which provided students with ingredients to make a healthy meal.
Ila Astren, U2 Arts and the head organizer of AHAW, said that the week is a useful resource for students and was intentionally scheduled for this time of year.
“AHAW is meant to give students an opportunity to carve time out and de-stress, as well as help reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and seeking for help,” Astren said. “Especially this week, there is such a student need [for de-stress….This particular week was chosen] on purpose to give students [an] opportunity to de-stress during this paper writing time and presidential elections.”
According to Astren, students at McGill often do not know about all of the resources available to them, especially services focused on mental health and counselling.
“With regards to mental health, often, things are centralized where they are. For this reason, this week was held in order to create a diffusal of the resources available on campus,” Astren said. “[…The] main idea […] was to showcase what we already have on campus so that students are exposed to what they don’t know and can go later in the year if they need to.”
On Nov. 8, the Study Abroad Networking Session + Mental Health While Abroad Information Station was held in Leacock. At this event, students who had gone abroad offered advice based on their own experiences.
“[We and the Arts OASIS and the Study Abroad Office] recognize that some students may find [studying abroad] stressful and shocking so basically what we did there is promote and give information on mental health tips that students can use when going abroad,” Astren said.
Maxine Clare, U4 Arts, studied abroad in Palestine for a semester and said that it was a unique situation that affected her mental health.
“I wouldn’t say [I was] homesick, but there were times when it was hard because of the political situation and I got to feel the daily oppression that Palestinians feel–there is a sense of entrapment,” Clare said.
Anne Nudo, Arts OASIS Student Advisor, Study Away/Exchanges, was there to offer advice to students on choosing a study abroad program and maintaining their mental health while away from home.
“Check out the host university thoroughly [before leaving for your study abroad program], attend all the pre-departure sessions, which discuss safety and health and meet with faculty advisors or doctors, depending on the issues, before departure,” Nudo said.
The Salad Jar Workshop took place on Nov. 9 and was an interactive event organized with Healthy McGill and intended to teach students how to make their own wholesome meals. According to Astren, the salad workshop was so popular at the 2015 AHAW that organizers decided to hold it again this year.
“A handful of students, as many students as possible, will have done something this week where they felt good, whole, and had carved out some time to de-stress,” Astren said. “If they got a nourishing dinner from our salad workshop, whether or not they explicitly learned about healthy nourishment, they benefited.”