1. How will you use your position within CUSA to educate members on mental health and illness, support student wellbeing, and advocate for systemic change to mental health services, programming, and policies?
As a team, Change is dedicated to principled activism work, particularly around the issue of mental health. From an education standpoint, we want to continue to expand the role of the Health and Wellness Resource Centre into beyond just smoothies and yoga, but into the central home for mental health services at CUSA. Change is committed to intersectional and inclusive practices that extend throughout our training of staff, services, programming and campaigns, expanding Pop the Stigma from simply an awareness week to a year-long action plan. We will devote increased resources into mental health programming and training, anti-oppression around mental and psychiatric disability and will use our platform to advocate for more inclusive therapeutic options on campus. Indeed, our Presidential candidate, Ashley Courchene, has already used his position as VP Student Services to introduce new policy allowing for the allotment of financial support from the Accessibility Funds for students who are turned away from services by the PMC.
Change has the track record when it comes to mental health. Our VP Finance candidate Greg Owens has been an executive for 3 years with SAMH. Change has been on the front lines for this important student issue, and promises to continue to foster increased partnership with groups like SAMH, SMHAC, Jack.org, Cam’s Kids, and local community groups to ensure we support those living with mental illness and the mental health of all students.
2. What mental health initiatives and programming do you plan on allocating funding towards?
Change has a number of plans for mental health initiatives and programming that we are excited to put forward to SAMH and the rest of the Carleton community. First, our VP Student Services candidate Zophia Brobio plans on relocating the Health and Wellness Resource Centre into a larger location (the current location of REC Hall and Mawandoseg), as a part of our efforts to maximize the current CUSA spaces. For those worried about REC Hall and Mawandoseg, they will both be relocated to larger spaces as well. This centre will receive the addition of a second coordinator, who will allow for expanded hours and resources to be available from the HWRC. We plan on training both coordinators and senior volunteers in a variety of mental health, peer support and anti-oppressive practices so that this centre can become a central location for students to receive immediate peer support. Additionally, we would develop a series of resources for students, including a reference book with reviews of community mental health services from other students, as well as workshops on how to support a loved one with mental illness.
Additionally, VP Student Issues candidate Kenneth Aliu would be expanding the Pop the Stigma campaign into increased advocacy and action year round on Carleton Health and Counselling Services, local community services and organizations and political representatives to ensure the mental health of our members is supported not only when they are on campus, but also out in the rest of the community.
3. How will you maximize opportunities for student consultation and engagement in any mental health initiatives you pursue?
Change believes that the work SAMH, SMHAC, Jack.org and other organizations on campus have allowed for voices around mental health and illness to begin to be heard by CUSA, other unions and administration. Given the large role that SAMH and SMHAC in particular have played in campaigns like Thrive and Pop the Stigma, as well as the development of the Mental Health Framework 2.0, we believe continued partnership with advertising open consultation through these organizations is essential. Our VP Internal candidate Ahmad Araji has promised monthly consultation with clubs and societies, and is dedicated to ensuring the voices of clubs who have felt ignored or underappreciated are heard and centred in discussions of CUSA programming and initiatives. All consultation on events and programming will be announced plenty in advance, and both in person and electronic feedback will be made available, as to increase accessibility. Additionally, VP Student Life candidate Donna Al Sououb is focused on ensuring that her position is expanded beyond simply partying into more accessible and inclusive events supported by CUSA. This includes alcohol-free nights at Oliver’s, which would allow greater access to those who are living with alcohol dependency issues. Additionally, she is seeking to add more cultural events, such as direct sponsorship of Iftars, Eid, Diwali, Holi and other cultural celebrations in order to provide students with an increased sense of community and belonging within our association.
4. How would you improve or change CUSA’s ‘Pop the Stigma’ mental health campaign?
Change appreciates the work of previous VP Student Issues executives on mental health awareness, but thinks it is time to shift from awareness to action. Change VP Student Issues candidate Kenneth Aliu strongly believes that the awareness week format needs to shift to year-round campaigns and action. He is open to the concept of rebranding the campaign to not only centre around stigma, but also around increased funding to services from CUSA, Carleton administration and both provincial and federal government. Change understands that living with mental illness and the discussion around mental health is inherently political, and many voices around mental health, particularly those of intersecting marginalized identities are often underrepresented in the dialogue around mental health. Thus, we believe in ensuring that those voices are represented using our platform to amplify those experiences to maximize stigma reduction in all communities and political attention for increased funding of mental health services. Now is no longer just the time for awareness, but the time for action.
5. How will you work to ensure CUSA’s events, programming, and services are more accessible to individuals with mental (dis)abilities?
Change will work to ensure CUSA’s events, programming and services are more accessible to individuals with mental (dis)abilities through a variety of fashions. As previously mentioned, our President candidate Ashley Courchene and VP Internal Candidate Ahmad Araji are both dedicated to increased consultation with students, both in person and through online and paper feedback forms, thus providing more options to provide suggestions for improving our accessibility. Change, through VP Finance candidate Greg Owens and VP Student Services candidate Zophia Brobio, also plans on requiring all CUSA employees to enroll in and complete both the Mental Health First Aid being provided free of cost by Health and Counselling services 4 times annually here at Carleton, as well as anti-oppression training. Change VP Student Life candidate Donna Al Sououb will bring all ages and alcohol-free event programming, particularly at Oliver’s, as well as culturally inclusive events, which create safe(r) spaces for those living with alcohol dependencies and those who feel ostracized when they are away from their cultural communities while attending Carleton. Finally, Change VP Student Issues candidate Kenneth Aliu will champion mental health as one of his main campaigns, ensuring it is discussed not just one week a year, but as a part of every other campaign on campus. We strongly believe that those living with mental illness need a student union that will fight for them. We believe we are that voice. So on February 1 st and 2 nd , we are asking that you make every voice count. Vote Change.