Hi everyone. I'm here at this month's Soup & Substance talk at Heaslip House.
Today's discussion will explore mental health through the lens of "equity." More on what that means when the event starts at noon.
Soup & Substance talks are held every month by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. They're informal panel discussions looking at issues affecting diverse groups.
The event will be moderated by Tony Conte, director of the vice-provost, students' office.
Conte begins the event, welcoming guests.
The event is set up so anyone can join the conversation at any point. "Finally I have my own talk show," Conte says to laughs.
Green says mental health discussions should always include talk of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), addressing problems faced by different groups.
She says equity relates to historical discrimination and legal actions whereas diversity means different identities and social groups. Inclusion is about making sure everyone is included within workplaces, etc.
Educational awareness and training to help people understand how those terms compliment each other and work together is how her office helps, she says.
It's her job to make sure proposals for policies and curriculums are inclusive of everyone, Green says.
Teo says inclusion looks at systemic issues rather than individuals in crisis. "How can you change those policies to mitigate staff and students getting into crisis?"
"I don't want to be the PC police," Green says she often says, but sometimes she has to ensure political correctness because it's in Ryerson's DNA to ensure inclusion.
"If we have a very accessible campus...then the need to fight those fires becomes less and less," Green says.
Conte says it seems like there's been an increase in media interest in mental health.
Teo says a lot more attention needs to be focused on policies because there are many different things that lead to mental health crises.
Professionals must be trained to look at issues from a systemic perspective, Green says. "Everyone can't be treated the same when it comes to mental health."
Metis and aboriginal groups have special needs, she says. Everyone can't be seen through the same lens.
An audience member asks if Chinese people fall under the term "person of colour."
Green says she would think yes. Another audience member says in Canada, we say "visible minorities."
Another audience member asks if it's worth looking at different ways of treating mental health issues since some cultural communities prefer group healing through drum circles, fire example, rather than sitting alone with a counsellor.
Teo and Green say various campus groups are helping to bring a greater understanding of different groups and trying to think of new treatment options.
The issue of long wait times for counselling services comes up. Audience member says people should be taught to help themselves so they're not just looking to a counsellor for answers.
Teo says that is indeed a focus of treatment now. Peer mentoring, such as the Tri-Mentoring program, is a good alternative, she says.
"The wait times here is much shorter than in the general population," Green says. "We're a public institution. We're here to serve the public. But how far do we go with that?"
Audience member says when students raise concerns that they suffer from anxiety, professors tell them to go to the access centre. She says this is exclusionary. "The fact that there's an access centre shows that you're not like everyone else."
Green says that depends on how you define the problem. There are different solutions to different problems and the access centre is one solution.
"We need to keep talking about this," Conte says. He tells the crowd he is gay and suffers from anxiety and admitting this is not easy because he worries we will think he is less competent at his job because of that.
"In my brain, it's telling me maybe I should not have said that here," he says. Audience tells him they think it makes him better at his job and more understanding.
Green ends the talk saying she herself is always stressed out. It's common.
Yaron says the discussion started off a bit formally. "I was thinking, 'My goodness, they're not even talking about mental health.' And gradually it became more relevant and down-to-earth."
Green tells me she used to hold Soup & Substance talks during her previous job in the U.S. She brought the idea to Ryerson as vice-provost EDI and the first one was held in January 2013.
Mental health was chosen as today's topic because "that's one of the areas that's pressing and conversation is needed on that topic," Green said. She said the event provided an opportunity to normalize mental health discussions and end the stigma surrounding the topic.
The room has cleared out and now so will I. Thanks, everyone, for following along.