Name: Julissa Stewart
School: St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX)
Year: 4th Major: BA joint major in Psychology and Sociology
Fav thing about your campus: It’s located in my hometown
Dream Job: Behavioural Interventionist
What is your connection to mental illness?
I have lived with General Anxiety Disorder and depression for over ten years, among other mental health issues. Mental illness is quite prevalent in my family, and so I have also watched various mental health issues affect my loved ones. When I was eleven years old, a close family member of mine had died by suicide because of depression. Although I could barely understand my own mental health issues, that was when I started researching about mental illness and teaching myself about the basics. There have been far too many lives lost to suicide within my community over the past few years and I am dedicated to dropping these rates.
How do you deal with stress from school?
Self-care all the way – for me, I found that my best method of self-care is to devote one entire day during the week (usually Sundays) to do absolutely nothing – no school work, no obligations, etc. This is the best way for my brain to take a break from the chaos of student life.
Wrapping myself in a blanket is another huge helpful tool for me when I’m stressed out. That may sound silly and useless, but I find it extremely comforting and calming to touch when I’m anxious. I started bringing a small blanket with me to study spaces on campus like the library and I have noted a difference in my concentration! Who cares if you look silly – everybody’s self-care methods are different and you have to find what works best for you.
What does your campus do to help students' mental health?
St. FX Campus has some really great services:
o St. FX Health and Counselling Centre – I started using the centre in my second year and I have met some amazing mental health professionals through St. FX!
o St. FX Wellspring Centre – This is operated by the Sisters of St. Martha. It is a really relaxing space to study or meditate, and the nuns usually serve cookies, tea and coffee to students who use these services.
o St. FX Centre for Accessible Learning – for students who live with permanent disability, they offer student-centered program of support.
o St. FX offers Dog Dens during midterm periods and Mindfulness classes that are open to all students throughout the semester.
o We also have societies on campus such as the X Mental Health Society and Jack.org StFX, which I am the president of on my campus! We plan and put on events on campus that focus on raising awareness about mental health and eliminating stigma surrounding mental illness!!
Do you have any school year self care tips to share with other students?
Your mental health comes before your school work, always. Your grades do not define you – it may be hard to let that go but it’s so important. There was one midterm last year that I couldn’t even open the book without taking an anxiety attack – I ended up pulling an all-nighter, and that was a very bad idea.
It’s important to take a step back, close the book, wrap yourself in a blanket and take care of yourself. Your professors can be very understanding; you just need to talk to them about it. If your brain is having a rough time, it won’t be able to process all that information or cram a ton of facts into that space. It needs to breathe. Mental health is #1, always ~ everything else will fall into place after that.