Name: Paul Barber
School: Queen’s University
Year: 4th Year
Fav thing about your campus: The spirit and community here is honestly so incredible and gives people such a strong sense of pride to go here. It’s so easy to feel at home and to feel empowered by what you can do with your time at Queen’s.
Dream Job: Still working it out, but probably working with the healthcare system to improve mental health of healthcare professionals and work on developing more patient-centered care practices
What is your connection to mental illness?
My connection with mental illness has been something I’ve still been growing to understand, but it started at a very young age. I dealt with depressive thoughts while growing up and thought this was very much the norm, and it was only when I reached high school that I learned that it wasn’t how everyone thought.
Fast forward to University and I’ve been making strides in understanding my mental health. I went to my first counselling appointment and although it wasn’t really a great appointment, it was comforting to know that I took the initiative. From there, I just tried to learn more about my mental health and evaluate what parts of my life may be impacting it. I developed a self-care routine and engaged myself in awesome conversations with my friends about the culture around mental health. I feel so incredibly fortunate that many of my friends feel comfortable confiding in me about their mental health, and being a supporter for people’s struggles has been a big part of my connection to mental illness as well.
How do you deal with stress from school?
Friends are everything to me and help me so much when I get stressed with school. Just being around people is a huge relief and a great way to destress after a hard day. I also tend to just sit down and organize my day hour by hour to help me feel like I can manage all the work that I may have. A big journey for me has been learning to not base my self-worth off of my grades, and this has been huge in handling my stress as well. I also really use extracurriculars as a way to feel like I’m contributing to others, and this helps me find school rewarding and makes me feel more fulfilled. Outside of that, I just try to have fun each day. I dance in my room to Disney, sing my favourite throwbacks, joke around with my awesome housemates or just chill outside for a brief mental break.
What does your campus do to help student’s mental health?
I am super lucky that my campus does SO much to help it’s students with mental health. We have a counselling service on campus (That’s always backed up, but it’s there) and counsellors specifically for some faculties and for first years. Outside of that the students here run a lot of initiatives, whether it be to raise awareness surrounding mental health or just to raise funds for mental health initiatives. One of my favorite places is the Peer Support Centre, which my co-rep Mariana Paz-Soldan is the head manager for (and I’m a coordinator for it!) Although it’s not specifically for mental health, it’s a place where students can go to just talk to a confidential, non-judgmental student volunteer about any difficulties they’re having at the time. Honestly the students at Queen’s are so brave and I’m so honored to be able to work for such an awesome service. I am also super lucky that through working with them, I’ve received training on suicide intervention, sexual assault survivor support and lots of other tips on how to help my friends.
Do you have any school year self-care tips for other students?
Find something that you love to do and schedule it in each week! Force yourself to commit to it no matter how busy you are. For me this is photography, I love just taking fun pictures of people and capturing their moments of happiness.
Also work on practicing self-care proactively, it took me too long to start doing this. It can be helpful to do after you get stressed, but actual scheduling self-care into your weekly schedule can do huge strides to stress management!
I always love finding songs that I really enjoy listening to and building a ‘Feel Good’ playlist, for those busy days when you’re on the go but want a cheer me up. Find whatever works for you (music, food, a picture) that you think can cheer you up when you’re down and keep it in your back pocket ready to help you out when you’re in need!
My final tip is honestly to plan a random act of kindness each month if you can. Plan some fun way to help either a stranger or a friend and really make their day. Spreading some cheer is one of the best ways to remind yourself that you are far more than your grades.