Raising awareness for mental health


Sheridan has launched an awareness campaign called What Does Mental Health Look Like To You?

The hope is to give Sheridan students the opportunity to understand what mental health is and support the people in their community who might be coping with problems.

Some of the mental disorders associated with this campaign include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, a number of eating disorders and addiction.

“I would best describe depression as something I read not too long ago,” said Jaclynn Otten, a Business General student. “Depression is when your heart and your mind stop loving each other but still eat at the same dinner table every night.”

Without a full understanding of how certain mental disorders work, there can be misconceptions about those who are struggling.

“A misconception is that we are lazy,” said Otten. “I don’t want to be lazy, but sometimes your mind and your body will just not let you do certain things. Sometimes I cannot get out of bed in the morning because I feel just too sad and my body won’t physically let me. I would say another one is that a lot of people think depression is fake. It is not fake and it is not something to joke about.”

Interpretations of what it’s like to live with a specific disorder can vary, whether you’ve spent a few years with it or majority of your life.

“I can feel it in my stomach. It’s just like a knot,” said Justine Polanic, a Journalism student. “Then you get angry at yourself for being afraid because you know that it’s a silly thing to be afraid of, but no matter how hard you try the fear won’t go away. I’d describe social anxiety disorder as always being afraid of what people are thinking of you. When you hear people laughing in class, you think it’s about you. When you speak up in class, you think people are thinking that you’re stupid.”




Mental health changes how you act, feel and think. It can also determine how you manage stress, relate to others or make everyday decisions. This includes emotional, social and psychological well-being. However, mental illnesses can be aided with medication as well as talking to someone about how they’re feeling or cognitive behavioural therapy.

“My boyfriend is my biggest support system. He takes me through breathing exercises when I am having a panic attack. He encourages me that it’s good to cry it out, and he listens to me and talks me through the problems I am having. He gets me back on my feet and makes me feel strong, powerful, and like a beautiful person inside and out,” said Polanic.

The What Does Mental Health Look Like To You? campaign offers a chance to learn and explore mental disorders we may have never heard before, such as dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is an extension of OCD, which includes compulsive skin picking. It can occur when one is feeling anxious, ashamed or guilty. People often associate OCD with checking locks 10 times or flipping every light switch you pass. However, it can present itself in more destructive ways like picking your skin off or pulling patches of hair out.

“The two biggest misconceptions I get with dermatillomania is that it’s a choice, and I do it for attention,” said Brittany Elisha Martin, a Performing Arts Preparation student. “Neither of these is true. Mental illness isn’t something you choose, or want. It sucks, it’s painful, and it hurts. I hate that I pick my skin off, and I hate that people notice and ask questions. It’s not something I choose, it’s something I fight.”

In November, Student Union Awareness will showcase student artwork in an open gallery. Students can draw, paint, sculpt, write or use any form of expression to explain what mental health looks like to them.

“It may be 2015, but it feel like a lot of people still don’t understand not only how prevalent mental illness is, but how detrimental it is to someone,” said Martin. “Like I said earlier, it’s not a choice. Why would anyone choose to live in the hell that is an invisible illness?”

“To others who are struggling with mental illness, I want them to know that they aren’t some freak of society, and that no matter what happens in their life, they will always have somebody there to support them,” said Polanic.

Descriptions of some of the most common mental health issues - along with tips for seeking help.

Descriptions of some of the most common mental health issues – along with tips for seeking help.