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Make mental health a priority

October 9, 2023
Author: Becky Duarte

A reminder during World Mental Health Month

Now that we’re well into the term and back into the study routine, I wanted to take a moment to talk about mental health. While this time is exciting and busy, it can also get overwhelming and stressful. Balancing school with work, extra-curricular activities, a social life and other commitments is not easy. In honour of World Mental Health Day (October 10) and World Mental Health Month, I’m here to remind you to take some time for yourself. Also try to be there for others who may be struggling with any of the challenges I mention below.

Academic struggles

My first term at university was a steep learning curve. As an international student, I was learning a new education system as well as new concepts. One thing I learned quickly is to ask for help when I need it. My professors are ever-ready to answer questions and help me succeed. I also took advantage of the free services offered by the  Writing Centre in the library for almost every assignment in the beginning. The centre has expertise in helping international students who speak English as a second language. Questions about your degree, choosing courses/programs or any other academic-related questions keeping you up at night? Visiting an academic advisor can help you clear up worrying doubts.


During my first few months at university, I found it difficult to be sociable. I’d avoid talking to people and stay in my dorm room all day, except for when I had classes. Being away from friends and family for a long period of time can get very lonely. In times like these, it is important not to isolate yourself. Interacting with people in your class greatly lightens the courseload and motivates active participation. Making an effort to meet new people, attend campus events and stay informed about events on campus can help you avoid loneliness. It helps you build new friendships, share experiences and create a sense of belonging for yourself within the university. You can also join clubs to meet people with shared interests.

Financial difficulties

A common stressor impacting student mental health is financial worries. The cost of tuition, textbooks, housing and groceries causes anxiety for many of my friends. One way to help counteract this is to take action. Start with the friendly people in Financial Aid and Awards. They can help you look into scholarships, grants, and on- and off-campus employment opportunities. They also created this Financial Options Checklist to help students manage expenses.

Supporting each other

It’s important to reach out to people who may appear quiet and reserved when they aren’t normally so. A simple act of kindness, a listening ear or a friendly conversation can make a big difference. At the same time, when trying to help someone, it’s essential to respect their boundaries and not push too hard. Sometimes, people might need time and space to open up. Being kind, patient and non-judgmental can help create a safe environment where they may feel more comfortable sharing their feelings. It’s also okay to feel unequipped to deal with certain situations. In times like these, you should recommend that they reach out to available counselling services.


If you think you would feel a bit more comfortable speaking with a fellow student rather than a counsellor, the Thrive team at VIU has trained Wellness Peers who can offer a listening ear. You can even approach them for information about who to contact for specific issues. The Thrive team organizes lots of activities and events on and off campus related to improving mental health and other niche topics. These events are also a great way to meet new people and build a network of friends and connections. October is World Mental Health Month and throughout the month, Thrive has organized events aimed at improving student mental health. Next up is the mental health screening day on October 19 from 8:30 to 11:30 am in the Royal Arbutus Room (Room 401 in Building 300). Come in anytime over that period.


Mental health, although often overlooked, is a vital aspect of our well-being. Remember, everyone has their own battles, and being compassionate and understanding goes a long way.


Becky Duarte is a first-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Digital Media Studies. She moved to Canada in January 2023 for the experience of studying abroad and living life outside India. She enjoys travelling, watching movies and playing board games.

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