Addressing mental health together and ASFA join forces to destigmatize mental health

Two Concordia student organizations are working together to confront the stigma that hinders conversations surrounding mental health.

Concordia’s chapter of, which advertises itself as “the only national network of young leaders transforming the way we think about mental health,” joined the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) in a presentation held on Nov. 21. The event was organized to help change the dialogue around the psychological challenges many students face.

“Creating a space to talk about it really demystifies things and makes it more accessible,” said Dale Robinson, the former manager of Concordia’s counselling and psychological services.

Concordia students Maya Okindo and Josie Fomé spoke at the event on behalf of Concordia’s chapter. They provided information to assist anyone who may be experiencing mental health issues, including when to seek help and where to find it.

A key point brought up by Okindo and Fomé during the talk was that mental health exists on a spectrum, and where one falls on that spectrum can change over time. The presenters explained that mental health can be impacted by a wide range of factors, such as genetic predisposition, a person’s environment, the culture in which a person is raised and the way society as a whole views people with mental health issues.

The presenters noted that, while one in five Canadians will struggle with mental health in their lifetime, only one in four of them will seek help.

Concordia students have access to a variety of options when it comes to mental health.

Robinson noted that Concordia’s support system is “made up of counselling and psychological services, health services and access centres for students with disabilities.” She explained that these offices work together, like a network, so that students receive the best care possible.

“The services were already good; I think they’re going to be even better because of the fact that there’s active interaction and a network,” Robinson said.

Other speakers and organizers at the event shared stories of their struggles with mental health, including ASFA president Jonathan Roy. When asked why events like the talk are important, Roy recalled the lowest points in his life, saying that he wanted to make sure others wouldn’t have to feel the same.

“You have to go through the low moments,” Fomé said, “but you don’t have to go through them alone.” She added that students should never feel afraid to seek help because “it’s okay not to be okay.”

Concordia students in need of psychological support are afforded 10 free counselling sessions through the school. No referral is needed; students simply have to present themselves to a triage centre at either the Loyola or Sir George Williams (SGW) campus. From there, students will be placed with a counsellor.

Counselling and psychological services can be found in room H-440 on the SGW campus or room AD-103 on the Loyola campus.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

Encouraging the well-being of students

A creative arts workshop day will be held as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week

Connectedness, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment make up the acronym Chime In, which is a recently created student services group. “Our mandate is to help students better understand what the services are [at Concordia], how to access them and let them know what they do have access to,” said Alia Nurmohamed, a student representative at Chime In. “We are here for you. If you need something, there is always a willing hand to help.”

According to Nurmohamed, it can be very daunting to ask someone for help when starting at a new school. The vast service networks at universities can be confusing, particularly for students fresh out of CEGEP or high school. It’s not that the [services] are hard to access, but sometimes it’s hard to navigate and the information isn’t always easy to find,” Nurmohamed said. “So having some place or some people who are always there to better direct students is a good goal to have.”

The group began in May 2017 and consists of students representatives Nurmohamed and Jade Se; Howard Magonet, the director of Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services; Jillian Ritchie, an outreach coordinator from AMI Quebec; and Alexis Lahorra, a student representative and youth mental health advocate for the mental health awareness student group

Chime In will be hosting a day of creative arts workshops on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Library Building auditorium as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. “To have a day of creative arts workshops speaks to everyone,” Nurmohamed said. “I personally believe that we all have our natural talents. Some of us naturally love music, reading—we all have these aspects in our lives that we turn to fulfill us, to sustain us.”

The various groups from Campus Wellness and Support Services will be present at the workshops, including Counselling and Psychological Services,, AMI Quebec and Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre. “There will be a Chime In member to help direct and talk to people—all of us are going to be there for this one purpose to raise awareness for mental health and well-being,” she said.

The event will feature five different workshops, one of which will be given by La Ruche, a community art studio created by Concordia’s creative arts therapy department. A large amount of art supplies for painting, drawing and sculpting will be made available to workshop participants. There will also be a creative writing workshop allowing participants to create their own graphic novel. “When you are writing for your well-being, it can be so deeply introspective, reflective and very personal—I think art and writing intersects in so many beautiful ways,” Nurmohamed said.

CJLO has prepared a silent disco as part of the music workshop where people can tune in to the radio with their smartphones, pop in their headphones and groove however they feel like in the moment. For those who enjoy physical relaxation, there will be a session of chair yoga. If you’re a fan of Concordia’s pet therapy program that takes place during midterm and finals, there will be a workshop offering some relaxing play time with a number of dogs. Cupcakes will also be provided at the event.

In addition to the workshops, there will be a banner where people can leave their own message of what well-being means for them. The banner will then be placed in common areas around campus. “Other students will be able to see what well-being means to their peers and just how much it touches every one of us all the time,” Nurmohamed said.

According to Nurmohamed, when people think of services at Concordia, they often think of health services in terms of physical bodily functions. “There is much more to that. Your well-being is every aspect of you—it is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual,” she said.

In order to fill in the gaps in the university’s services, Chime In student representative Jade Se is leading a new initiative called the Concordia Student Nightline. This active listening service will add to the similar services by other groups at Concordia. This student nightline will be available as a hotline for students to call and obtain well-being services at night and on the weekends.

Nurmohamed said students can access active listening services during the day from Counselling and Psychological Services and peer support at the Centre for Gender Advocacy and the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre. “But what happens at night? Or over the weekend?” she asked. is among the other campus groups looking to better the well-being of students. The group often hosts social events like poetry slams, open mic nights and parties.

The university’s Counselling and Psychological Services also offer students access to eight sessions with a registered therapist. According to Nurmohamed, you can go through a 15-minute psychological triage, where you can talk to a professional and get some help, support, tools and resources.

“That’s what I like about Concordia—they never forget their students,” Nurmohamed said. “I’ve never met a group of administrators who are so willing to help all the time. Everyone that I have talked to about doing this, about the organization of this event, every group on campus is so for it. They just want to help. It’s a great way to remind people that we are here for you.”

All workshops are free and will take place on Thursday Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. in Concordia University’s Library Building auditorium.

Graphic courtesy of Alia Nurmohamed


Resources for reducing stress during finals

Concordia offers a variety of services to help students make it through finals

We are approaching the time of the year where students become increasingly more stressed, anxious and sleep deprived. Concordia offers a variety of programs for students anxious about finals and looking for assistance.

Pet Therapy

The Concordia Webster Library organized a Pet Therapy session to help students take a break from their studies. Students crowded around two pugs near the library’s course reserve room on March 29 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

“I think that pet therapy is a great way for students to take a break from school and de-stress,” said Ana Grubac, a Concordia economics major, who was at the event.

According to the article “Between Pets and People: the Importance of Animal Companionship,” by Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, in Indiana, petting a dog lowers blood pressure and helps your body release hormones like oxytocin, which is linked to happiness.

According to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, “some people have experienced increased output of endorphins and dopamines after just five minutes with an animal.”

In addition, even brief encounters with pets, such as the ones who visited Concordia, help reduce levels of anxiety.

This year marks Concordia’s third edition of pet therapy, an event organized around the final exam period to help students cope with anxiety and stress.

“Some of the students are away from home and miss their own pets,” said Linda Toy, this year’s event organizer. “I have observed smiles and laughter during these events,” Toy added. “It is really quite special.”

Everyday Therapy

Throughout the semester, Concordia offers a variety of programs for students who need emotional support and guidance. One of these programs is the Everyday Therapy campaign, organized by Concordia Health Services.

The program is geared towards helping students with everyday personal struggles. The campaign hosts four therapy sessions throughout the semester to give students tips and suggestions for dealing with stress, personal relationships and confidence, throughout the fall and winter semesters.

According to Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five people will suffer from a mental illness or addiction at some point in their life. Two out of three of those individuals will suffer in silence.

“Concordia offers a [variety] of resources for students, and will discuss internal and community resources to help deal with mental health,” said Dale Robinson, a psychologist and manager at Concordia’s Counselling & Psychological Services, in an interview with The Concordian in February.

For students seeking assistance with stress or mental health,, is also available. is a non-profit organization designed by students for students with mental illnesses or suffering from emotional hardships. Concordia has its own chapter.

“ reaches out to students who need help, and we help guide them to different resources available in their area,” said Michael Dorado, a representative.

“Most often times, students don’t know that counseling and psychological services exist at Concordia. Our role is to show students that [services] exist and are available to help them,” Dorado said.

Photo by Chloe Ranaldi.


Concordia represented at summit

Student Alexis Lahorra is one of 200 student leaders who took part in the mental health advocacy weekend in Toronto

Concordia student Alexis Lahorra participated as a student representative at the summit last weekend in Toronto.

The summit, organized by, brought together more than 200 students leaders from across Canada to come up with ways to cope with mental health. Nearly all of the students who attended were members of, a national network where students discuss mental health.

“We gathered all these students who are involved with mental health initiatives in Toronto for three days to learn skills and competences that they can use within their own community,” said Lahorra, who leads’s Concordia chapter. She was one of 12 students who helped barnstorm, plan, and execute the even.

Alexis Lahorra, a Concordia student, who helped organizing the summit.

Over the weekend, students learned about different skills related to coping with and improving mental health, and how to manage their own student groups and chapters. Participants were also able to exchange new strategies of coping with mental health and learn from each other. “Imagine meeting 199 new friends and inspiring one another. It was really cool to gather this weekend,” Lahorra said.

Lahorra, a communication studies student, was also there to share her story with mental health on stage in front of the other student leaders. During the event, she also spoke with Radio-Canada, CBC’s French media, about the work she does within Concordia University and about her own experiences with mental health.

“When I published the [interview] video on my social media, I received personal messages from people saying, ‘thank you for sharing your story and showing that it’s fine to not be okay all the time,’” she said.

At the summit, she said she learned students “have to know our limits and we have to know when to delegate tasks to our colleagues and friends.”

Lahorra is currently looking to create a collaboration between Concordia’s Health Services and the university’s chapter. “We are working on the peer mental health ambassador pilot project,” she said. “Students at Concordia, who volunteer or are executives, will eventually become mentors who connect students to the health services available [at the university]—a little bit like student mentors, but who advocate mental health especially.” Concordia’s next event is an expression night on Thursday, March 31 at Reggies Bar, where students will be able to share their personal stories related to mental health in front of an audience.


Montrealers walk for mental health

People from the city gathered to help raise awareness about mental health

Hundreds of Montrealers came together on a rainy Sunday morning to raise money and awareness for mental health.

Children and adults participated in the 8th annual MONTREAL WALKS for mental health event. The four-kilometer walk began at Phillips Square, passed by Concordia University and parts of the downtown Montreal area before concluding back at Phillips Square.

Throughout the year thus far, MONTREAL WALKS has raised $32,000 during various events, which will be donated to non-profit organizations that provide mental health services in Montreal.

MONTREAL WALKS for mental health director Orly Ashair was impressed by the number of people who committed to the event and walked through the wet weather. Walkers participated individually or in teams.

Smiling participants raising awareness about mental health. Photo by Alex Hutchins

“Different organizations share a fundraising drive with us,” said Ashair. Out of the money raised, Ashair explained the organizations get to keep 60 per cent to donate to a group of their choice, which must be related to helping mental health. The remaining 40 per cent goes towards funding the yearly MONTREAL WALKS for mental health. However, organizers of the walk are strictly volunteers, thus unpaid, Ashair added.

One of the teams that took part in the event was Concordia, the university’s chapter of the broader organization. The organization consists of a national network of young leaders seeking to change perceptions of mental health. The group walked in the pouring rain to help eliminate stigma and discrimination towards people living with mental illnesses.

Alexis Perez, Concordia’s president attended Sunday’s walk. “During this experience, people shared their stories,” she said. “From my perspective, it was great to unite as one, and come together to end the silence around mental health.”

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Concordia is teaming up with the university to host a variety of events and activities, including yoga and art session, throughout the month of October. Their goal is to teach all students about mental health and have people share their personal stories.

According to the MONTREAL WALKS website, currently, about 18 per cent of Quebecers have a mental health disorder. In Montreal, 29 per cent of people will experience depression, anxiety disorders or disorders related to drugs or alcohol in their lifetime. Also, two out of three people suffer with mental health in silence, for fear of being judged and rejected, according to the website.

In the last four years, the event has raised more than $35,000 yearly for local community mental health organizations.

News Concordia Meets Their Royal Highness

Student Miranda Benoit had the chance to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to discuss mental health

Nineteen student leaders from, Canada’s only national network of young leaders working to end the stigma of mental health, met with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Oct. 1. Concordia student Miranda Benoit was one of them.

Benoit, 22, recently moved here from Newfoundland to start her masters degree in psychology. Growing up in a stigma-free environment, she said she was encouraged to talk about mental health. However, she noticed many people around her did not have the same type of environment growing up—so she joined “ was a wonderful way for me to advocate that other people should also have that right,” Benoit said.

During her studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Benoit found the chapter of Grenfell Campus. She is now a volunteer at the Concordia chapter. It was her active involvement with the organization that got her an invitation to meet Their Royal Highnesses.

“It was very exciting,” she said about being given the opportunity. “I think it was a little bit of luck and hard work mixed together.”

Before meeting royalty, the group of nineteen students had to practice their formalities when it came time to meet Their Royal Highnesses. “Some of us met in Toronto for a training on how to address them, and also the safety of being on a boat since we were going to sail one with them,” Benoit said.

While in Toronto, the students also helped organize the upcoming Summit that will be hosted there this spring.

When the group landed in Victoria, Benoit said she was nervous, but in the best possible way. “I think it’s huge to have people that are so well-known, with such big following, advocate mental health, she said. “[It] really puts the topic on the big stage.”

Their Royal Highnesses are active advocates themselves, she said. The Duke and Duchess  are very much involved with the United Kingdom’s mental health organization called “Heads Together,” which aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing and provide vital assistance for people struggling with mental illness.

“Based on the interactions, they seemed much more interested in learning from us—to understand what our perspective on mental health was,” said Benoit.  

The students and their guests of honour were on the boat for an hour.  Benoit said The Duke and the Duchess were down to earth as they were taking time with each students to learn from them.

Now that Benoit is back in Montreal, she’s excited to take on the new projects that the Concordia chapter has in store. Their next big event is participating in the Mental Health Walk, organized by Montreal Walks for Mental Health Foundation, a four kilometer walk to help raise public awareness about mental health and eliminate stigma and discrimination towards people living with mental illness. For more information, visit

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