By Ariel Vered
Carleton University’s Student Alliance for Mental Health (SAMH) was recently awarded the Community Inspiration Award from the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre at their annual gala.
“Winning the award is extremely validating in a field that often can be emotionally laborious,” said SAMH President Greg Owens.
“We often think of those who do advocacy work as being strong, powerful leaders, but the reality is this organization is led by and consists of students who struggle daily with their mental health while navigating being a student,” he said. “When larger organizations like the Royal recognize the work of those who are doing grassroots efforts, particularly with vulnerable communities, they provide us credibility in the work we do.”
The group learned about the Inspiration Awards from a previous recipient in the youth category, as well as from former SAMH members who work at the Royal. They were nominated by a Carleton student who had done a speaking engagement for their Trans Mental Health event.
As Carleton University’s largest student-led mental health organization, SAMH focuses primarily on education, support and accessibility for those living with mental illnesses and those with an interest in mental health. It became a Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA)-sponsored club a few years ago after originating out of Health and Counselling Services.
The group has offered workshops and training to Carleton students, staff and faculty; held colloquia on various mental health topics; explored the intersections of mental health and illness via student discussion groups; played a role in the development of the university’s mental health framework; provided volunteer opportunities for hundreds of members; and advocated on behalf of students when they are having difficulties accessing services.
The group has plans to develop SAMH beyond CUSA and to continue to grow in size and outreach to members of the Carleton community. They are hoping to become a levy organization on campus, which would enable them to have office space where they can offer evidence-based, peer-designed support services.
“Our main struggle is always funding and space,” said Owens. They have also looked into partnering with colleagues at other post-secondary institutions such as the University of Ottawa’s Students Against Stigma.