UVic welcomes rebranded mental health week to campus

Campus News

Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk to play in the NHL, highlights sixth annual week-long even

File photo by Belle White

For the sixth consecutive year, UVic is hosting a week-long event in support of mental health, albeit under a slightly different title. 

After consultation with the First Peoples House, University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS), and International Student Services, the university decided to rebrand the name of the event from “Mental Health Awareness Week” to “Wellness Week” with the hopes of representing different cultural viewpoints and reducing stigma around the specific term “awareness.” 

“I think that in many aspects we’ve moved past ‘awareness’ as a community. We’re at a place where we can talk about behaviour and action – it’s less about breaking down stigma and more about sharing tools, approaches, and resources,” said Liam Green, Student Leadership and Engagement Coordinator at UVic, in an email interview with the Martlet. 

Green says the event has grown substantially each year, and that the university is anticipating their highest level of engagement this year — aided by a significant increase in groups willing to participate and host events. 

Last year, five campus partners put on six week-long events, while this year UVic has partnered with 15 on-campus groups to host 25 events, including a sold out keynote showcase with Jordin Tootoo, a former NHL player who was the first Inuk to play in the league.

“Our tagline for wellness week this year is ‘there’s a place for you here,’” says Green. “We hope to demonstrate that there are so many different ways and opportunities to build resilience, find and foster community, and connect with the land, people, and community that is UVic.”

Tootoo, who registered 161 points over 13 seasons, lost his brother to suicide one year after being selected 98th overall by the Nashville Predators in the NHL entry draft. In a feature written by Dan Robson for the Athletic last year, Tootoo opened up about his alcoholism, playing hockey in the wake of his brother’s traumatic death, and how he became an advocate for mental health after he retired from professional hockey. 

“Our planning committee had a lot of great candidates, but folks around the table thought that Jordin would really be able to highlight our theme of finding and building community. One of our objectives this year was to reach an audience that was perhaps less likely to have conversations about mental health and wellness,” said Green.”

“Our hope is that Jordin is a draw for athletes, Indigenous students, and people who wouldn’t be interested in accessing the other events that we are offering during the week.” 

Tootoo’s talk will be held at 5:30 p.m on Jan. 15 at the Farquhar auditorium in the University Centre. 

Another specific event Green is excited for is “Table Talk,” hosted by the Native Students Union (NSU) and UVSS, which will talk about community and wellness with a focus on Indigenous and people of colour’s voices. 

Also among the new initiatives installed for 2020 is the creation of a Gratitude wall, a space for students to write positive feedback on colourful sticky notes on the glass wall of the BiblioCafé. Another popular event that returned this year is “Puppy Cuddles”, an opportunity for students to snuggle and destress with B.C. and Alberta guide dogs. 

Green hopes that whether you’re a student, teacher, or member of the community, this week will help you feel connected to a wider group of people that care about your mental wellbeing. 

“We all have struggles, sometimes for longer periods than others,” he said. “No matter who you are or where you come from, this is a community that values you, supports you, and will fight for you.”

UPDATE: The keynote event with Jordin Tootoo has been postponed due to snow. UVic has not yet released the new date of this event.

Wellness Week will run from Jan. 13-17 with various events and workshops across campus.