Breaking the silence

Overcoming mental health struggles in the shadows of stigma.

*Trigger warning: suicide.*

I’m alive. 

That was my first bewildered thought in the aftermath of my suicide attempt. Today, I peel back the layers of secrecy to share one of the darkest chapters of my life, not as a tale of despair, but as a beacon of resilience and transformation. My journey from the brink of death to survival is not just my story—it is a testament to the critical importance of seeking help for mental health struggles, especially amidst the suffocating grasp of societal stigma.

For years, I masked my pain behind a facade of normalcy, mastering the art of deception. Each day was a balancing act between the desperate yearning for peace and the flickering ember of hope that urged me to hold on. But after nearly a decade of silent suffering, that ember of hope was finally extinguished. I had exhausted every ounce of strength, every glimmer of resilience, leaving behind a hollow shell of despair.

The weight of my mental anguish was compounded by the paralyzing fear of societal judgment. I was gripped by the insidious notion that seeking help would only burden others or worse, brand me as a social pariah. This fear kept me shackled in silence, imprisoned in a labyrinth of despair with no escape in sight.

As a young adult navigating academia, the pressure to excel only added fuel to my inner turmoil. Each day was a relentless cycle of academic rigor and emotional turmoil, with no respite in sight. The weight of expectations bore down upon me like a heavy yoke, crushing my spirit.

But amidst the darkness, a lifeline was extended to me in my hour of need. The wellness program at Concordia University offered a sanctuary of solace, a safe haven. Through mindfulness sessions and counseling services, I found a beacon of light, a guiding hand to lead me out of the abyss.

However, my journey is not just about survival—it is about breaking the silence and challenging the stigma surrounding mental health struggles. For far too long, society has shrouded these issues in secrecy and shame, perpetuating a culture of silence that suffocates those in need of help.

As teenagers and young adults, we are tasked with dismantling the barriers that stand in the way of mental health awareness and support. Initiatives at Concordia University, such as the Zen Dens, wellness programs, mindfulness sessions, and Counseling and Psychological Services, serve as examples of what is possible when we prioritize mental health and well-being.

But our work is far from over. We must actively implement strategies to improve access to mental health resources and support services, both within our schools and communities. One effective approach is to establish dedicated mental health support centers or hotlines staffed by trained professionals who can offer immediate assistance to those in need. Additionally, integrating mental health education into school curriculums can help raise awareness and reduce stigma from a young age.

To my fellow survivors, I say this: You are not alone. Your struggles do not define you. And together, we can break the silence and light the path toward healing and hope.

It is not easy to come forward and share one’s struggles with mental health. The fear of being judged or dismissed can be paralyzing, trapping us in a cycle of silence and shame. But it is precisely this fear that we must confront head-on, for our own sake and that of countless others who may be suffering in silence.

Young adults, in particular, face unique challenges when it comes to mental health. The pressures of academic success, social acceptance, and uncertain futures can weigh heavily on our shoulders, exacerbating existing struggles and making it even harder to reach out for help. Yet, it is crucial that we are taken seriously and that our voices are heard when we speak up about our mental health needs.

Every day, more than 200 people attempt suicide in Canada, a staggering statistic that underscores the urgent need for greater awareness and support for mental health issues. Behind each of these attempts lies a story that deserves to be heard and acknowledged.

As we strive to break the silence surrounding mental health struggles, let us also work to create a more compassionate and understanding society—one where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness, and where no one is left to fight their battles alone. Together, we can pave the way toward a brighter, more hopeful future for all.


You call this a supply store?

Concordia’s art store puts the pain in painting.

The DeSerres employee is tired of seeing my face. That’s the only way to explain his eyebrow raise as I trudge into the Atwater station art supply store for the tenth time this week. He’s seen it all, from my frantic rush to find oil paints 30 minutes before my first class to the avalanche of pastels I caused in the third aisle. He hasn’t seen the last of me, though—I’m beginning to think I’ll spend more of this semester in the DeSerres than I will in the studio. 

My loyalty to the business is caused by necessity, not by choice. Professors stress the importance of well-sourced materials, but a lack of viable options forces students to take what they can get. At the start of the semester, I hoped I would be able to furnish my supply needs entirely through Concordia’s art store (for those who aren’t aware, the art store is located in the basement of the LB building, just past the bookstore) as I assumed it would be the most affordable and accessible option. A single visit proved my assumption wrong: I discovered high prices and a shocking lack of stock. With the store missing even the basics, I turned to the next logical option. 

Of course, supporting a chain store is not ideal. It is important to be proud of where your materials come from and the resources you use to create your work. Buying from smaller local shops is always possible, but many small businesses are out of the way (and therefore inconvenient for frequent visits) or overpriced. Artists—especially student artists—are short on time and money as is. “I think it’s ironic that the main resource for art supplies on campus isn’t budget friendly,” says Andrea Chenier, a third-year studio art and art history major. 

At the same time, buying required books is alarmingly easy. At the bookstore, reading material is organized in alphabetical order in sleek stacks, which makes finding books a breeze. If a book is on your syllabus, it’s likely to be at the bookstore. Used books are displayed at a reduced price, ensuring a second option for those who don’t want to spend too much. Why, then, does the same system not apply at the art store? Surely, stock should be determined by demand—and this demand is high across the demographic. With Concordia being a university well-known for its fine arts programs, and Montréal being a city renowned for its art scene, our lack of options is pitiful. 

A better-stocked art store may seem like a frivolous wish, but it would improve the artistic processes of countless students. A well-rounded art store means less stress and less money spent. Most of all, it means far less time at DeSerres. But while I’m here, should I get a points card? Might as well.


Student Success Centre: How to navigate this helpful student resource

Concordia University’s academic and career support centre for students

The Student Success Centre (SSC) boasts an extensive range of school and job search resources that thousands of students use every year. From first-year students to graduates, the SSC has a lot to offer our Concordia community.

Navigating all the different components can be daunting, so we sat down with Juliet O’Neill Dunphy, the interim associate director and manager of student learning services at the SSC, to talk about the centre, now that all their services are being offered virtually. This guide is organized by listing the services under the five branches of the SSC.

To book an appointment or register in a studying or drop-in session, follow the instructions through the links.


Welcome Crew Mentors are undergraduate and graduate students who have been trained to help new students transition into their academic life. The SSC seeks to represent as many faculties as possible within their mentorship crew. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dunphy said more students are using this service. “It’s become more important for students to have that instantaneous connection with somebody.”

“Because of the isolation that so many students are experiencing now, having somebody to reach out to and talk to is amazingly helpful.”

Virtual events have their upsides, with students being able to connect wherever they are, and re-watch events when they have time. Twice annually, the Student Success Centre hosts an orientation for new undergraduate and graduate students. At orientation, several academic departments, student associations, and different organizations at the university meet with prospective students to present what they offer and answer questions.

Dunphy said attendance dramatically increased with the transition to a virtual orientation, and they also noticed prospective students continued to watch the recorded presentations saved on the website after the event.

The centre also has first-year support counselling, provided by councellor Monica Boulos, to help students with issues they may encounter during their first academic year, like homesickness and anxiety with school.

Boulos also hosts interactive workshops throughout the semester, with academic and support topics, such as: “First-year Check-in: Staying focused and productive while dealing with Zoom fatigue.”


Over 50 students work at the SSC as paid study group leaders, tutors, and writing assistants. They organize peer-led academic help sessions for students from different faculties.

The Math & Science-based learning support offers study groups and one-on-one tutoring for prerequisite math, accounting, and economics courses with high enrollment, and study groups for some basic science courses. When organizing their popular math exam review sessions, the SSC works in liaison with the Department of Mathematics & Statistics “To try and make sure we’re providing sample questions that are relevant to whatever might happen in the most recent exam,” said Dunphy.

Over a thousand students attend some of these sessions, which are offered throughout the year.

For students who want to gauge their proficiency in math courses, the SSC has free math self-assessments, which feature mock exams and homework samples. This assessment is especially useful for newly-admitted CEGEP students who were exempted from completing basic math courses at Concordia, but want to make sure they are well prepared for the upper level courses.

These weekly study groups and mock exams are also available for the basic economics courses. Dunphy said the centre noticed “students who come into these sessions are much more likely to succeed.”

For science students, the SSC offers Strategic Learning sessions for some entry level classes. Dunphy said these sessions are taught by a student tutor who excelled in the entry level course. The tutor attends the class again, this time to observe how the students are understanding the material, and prepares interactive student sessions outside of class time based on what students need help understanding.

Additionally, there are 13 writing assistants who offer undergraduate and graduate students writing advice and feedback, through a drop-in session, or by booking a personal appointment. The SSC also provides free writing advice handouts, which provide general guidelines on a variety of topics, for example: “A Brief Guide to Writing a Research Paper” and “A Template For Writing An Essay.”

Students can also use the Writing Assignment Calculator to help strategize when to complete different stages of their writing assignments. By filling in when the assignment is due, the calculator provides a timeline of when to have each portion of the project completed.

“Students find this really helpful, it keeps them on track,” said Dunphy.

For specific language help, language facilitators also host conversation sessions in English and in French, to help participants learn the respective language by encouraging them to develop their spontaneous speaking skills in a group setting.

The learning services also feature academic help beyond the textbooks. Three Learning Specialists support students with academic advice and guidance on topics such as time management, preparing for exams. and dealing with exam anxiety. Students can either book an appointment, attend a drop-in session, or participate in workshops which are repeatedly hosted throughout the semester. Events include: “Read and Remember Online Readings (Without falling asleep),” “The Way of APA” and “Get Back on Track: How to refocus and finish your semester strong!”

Dunphy said these one-on-one sessions for time management have become increasingly popular for students.

“Right now with COVID, students are finding just adding structure to their day is really challenging, because every day seems kind of seamless and endless, and so we talk about how to do that, and how to build breaks, and build in key study times, so that there’s balance.”


FeatureReady originated from “a feeling that students were not really leaving Concordia with professional skills,” according to Dunphy. Here, students can complete core skill modules that can help them transition into their careers with workshops under topics such as “Career Development” and “Innovation & Entrepreneurship.”

For students looking to take on a leadership role, the SkillXchange helps students develop a workshop themselves. Working alongside a coach and mentors, students work to produce an official skill or information session for the Concordia community.


Career planning offers both career counselling and advising services for students. While career counseling focuses on helping students make decisions about their academic and career path based on their interests, career advising helps students with their job search.

Students can also attend one of the many professional workshops and job fairs available on the website. Under “Networking and Recruitment Events” students can meet recruiters and learn job skills with companies and organizations like RBC, Home Depot, and the Cree School Board.

Students can also find general professional help under “Career Development and Job Search Strategies” which feature workshops on how to write a CV and cover letter, and how to network.

Additionally, for students and alumni looking for job opportunities, the centre posts over 300 job openings each month in their online job bank, which include full and part-time positions.

If you’re a student unsure of what career you’d like to pursue with your degree, you can also visit “What can I do with my degree in…” to look at your options. If you’ve already graduated but still need guidance, alumni can have additional career help as well.


For students accused of academic misconduct or behavioural complaints, the Student Advocacy Office branch at the SSC can connect them with staff or student advocates who will work closely with a representative, and help the accused student navigate the Academic Code of Conduct.

The centre also can also help students complete academic requests, such as withdrawing from a class after the deadline with a tuition refund, exam deferral, credits transfer, tuition refund, and much more.




Graphic courtesy of the Student Success Centre

Student Life

A winter semester to-do list

Once, long ago, I was a good student.

After a gap year spent working in the hellscape that is retail, I returned to university with a newfound sense of purpose and drive. Diligent and methodical in my approach, I attended every lecture, read every reading, climbed every mountain, and completed every assignment on time. Coincidentally, my grades looked pretty good throughout the entire process. Who knew?

I like to refer to this time as the golden period of my academic career. In the years that followed — the dark ages, if you will — I admittedly fell out of touch with my good habits. As my motivation diminished, so did my GPA and my mental and physical health.

Thankfully, it’s a new semester, a new year, and a new decade. In the spirit of new beginnings, I’ve consulted with fellow students and reflected on some of my old habits in order to compile a list of six tips to help me (and maybe you) get back on track this semester. So, without further ado, let my academic renaissance begin!


Start while you’re ahead 

When your professors provide assignment instructions weeks in advance, it’s usually because they want you to use that time to your benefit. This is something I tend to forget (or maybe the better word is ignore). When someone does make use of this time, however, they tend to be considerably less stressed and produce higher quality work, so get cracking!

Schedule everything

This approach might not work for everyone, but it certainly does for me. It’s in my nature to be scatterbrained and impulsive, so by setting a clear schedule for myself, I’m less likely to lose my focus. For me, this means being really specific about what I study and when. Blocking off my Saturday afternoon for general schoolwork is too vague — I need to block off Saturday 12:00-2:30 for working on my paper and 2:30-4:00 for reading and review. This schedule is subject to change, of course, but it helps me hold myself accountable.

Get friendly

Knowing at least one person in each of your classes can be extremely helpful. Whether you need a fresh perspective on some tricky material or to copy someone’s notes when you’ve missed a class, it’s never a bad idea to introduce yourself to a classmate. The same goes for your professors and TAs — the more recognizable you are, the more likely they are to help you when you’re in a tough spot. Get to know your professors by participating in class discussions and using their office hours, if possible.

Know your limits and make them known

As I sat down to outline this portion of the article, for some reason all I could think about was an episode of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Ned discovers he doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to people, and he becomes so overwhelmed with responsibilities that he descends into a state of what can only be described as all-consuming madness. (This memory is lodged deep within the recesses of my brain, so I could be exaggerating some of the details here).

Save yourself the stress and know when enough is enough. Even if it means turning down a social event or a special project, there is no shame in being open and transparent about your boundaries! Despite the lame quotes business majors may share on Facebook, overworking and pushing yourself to extremes can be harmful to you in the long run (don’t @ me!).

Take care of yourself, goddammit

I know, I know, this one gets thrown around all the time, but it’s true. Getting adequate sleep, nourishing and moving your body, and not binge drinking wine coolers every other night is extremely important. Taking care of yourself also means taking care of your environment — so do your laundry and your dishes, folks.

These are added stressors that are easily dealt with, so you might as well just get them out of the way. I hate to say it, but this is the step I and many others struggle with the most, and it’s arguably the most crucial of all. Baby steps, everybody.

Use the resources available My last tip is to take advantage of the many services Concordia offers. The Student Success Centre, for example, can hook you up with tutoring, study groups, and workshops. If you struggle with writing, make an appointment for writing assistance or attend a drop-in time. Go to office hours, take a breather in one of the many Zen Dens on campus, and consult a librarian to help you with your research. There are so many systems in place that can help make your semester run more smoothly. Remember, you’re paying the big bucks to be here, so milk it!

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Editorial: Concordia can do better to help its students

We’ve all been there. And if we haven’t, we know someone who has. As students, we expect to feel nervous, stressed, anxious and even depressed at some point during our studies. As school, work and other responsibilities pile up, it can be difficult to reach out to mental health professionals and care for yourself.

With the numerous resources they have, depending on their financial capabilities, universities often emphasize that students should reach out with mental health concerns about themselves or others. But what happens when more people are reaching out than there are hands being offered?

If you’ve tried to access the Counselling and Psychological Services at Concordia, you might be familiar with the long wait times and lack of availability. At the end of last semester, Concordia’s Fine Arts Students Alliance (FASA) conducted a Mental Health and Wellness Survey. According to The Concordian, FASA coordinators noticed that common concerns included long wait times and a lack of communication about mental health services at Concordia. The coordinators will present the survey results in April and propose initiatives to better address students’ needs, according to the same article.

Concordia does, however, offer free sessions and workshops on stress management, self-confidence, and other topics. Posters about mental health can be seen around campus as well. Even so, there are only 14 mental health professionals listed on the Counselling and Psychological Services website. This isn’t proportionate with Concordia’s 45,000 students.

According to The Montreal Gazette, many Canadian universities have been dealing with increasing demands for better mental health support on campus. A 2016 National College Health Assessment found that 44 per cent of the 43,780 Canadian higher-education students surveyed felt too depressed to function, while 65 per cent experienced overwhelming anxiety, according to The Globe and Mail. The assessment found these two figures had increased from 2013, where 38 per cent were depressed and 57 per cent had anxiety.

According to Maclean’s, 51.8 per cent of Concordia University students felt overwhelmed on a daily or weekly basis. It is clear there is a need for mental health support, but what can Concordia do to meet this demand? Firstly, we at The Concordian would like to see the university invest in and promote more student-run initiatives, of which there are multiple. In an email sent to fine arts students by FASA on Feb. 20, the alliance outlined various services offered by student groups and the university. The email referenced the Concordia Student Union’s 24-hour mental health hotline, Empower Me, the Concordia Art Hive, an open space in the EV building where students are free to create and heal through art-making, and the Concordia Students’ Nightline, a student-run organization that offers confidential support on Friday and Saturday nights.

While we at The Concordian don’t want to dismiss everything the university has done to better promote mental health for its students, we can’t deny that the administration could do better in promoting the varied services available.

There are students trying to help each other through these difficult times, but their efforts don’t reach many of the people who need support. We at The Concordian know first-hand that many students weren’t familiar with the resources offered on campus until they read about them in our newspaper or heard about them through a friend. We believe the university must better address the struggles its student body faces with mental health. It could be as simple as including a list of services on every syllabus.

Mental Health services offered at Concordia include:

  • 24-hour confidential and multilingual hotline, Empower Me (1-844-741-6389)
  • Counselling and Psychological Services on both campuses in rooms GM-200 and AD-103
  • The Zen Den, a calm public space offered at the Counselling and Psychological Services office, which is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The Concordia Art Hive, offered in EV-5.777 on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Concordia Students’ Nightline, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. (514-437-9797)
  • A meditation room in the downtown office of the Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre in the Z Annex on Mackay St.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Concordia app: Cost unknown

University’s mobile tool gives access to shuttle bus schedules, directories and more

Concordia’s administration is keeping silent on the cost of its new mobile app. When The Concordian asked about it, the university responded that the “cost for licensing the app was minimal.”  

The app, which was released in August, has already been downloaded more than 1,000 times. It provides students with information about shuttle bus schedules, food around campus, health and safety resources and other subjects.

The university also would not confirm if the cost was within the projected budget, where the funding came from, the cost of maintenance or the expected return on investment.

Version 1.4.0 of the app––its latest––allows the university to access the user’s approximate or precise location, depending on whether the phone is network-based or GPS-based. It can also read the photo, media and file content of the phone’s USB storage, according to Google Play.

According to university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr, “all the work was and will continue to be done in-house.” In the same email, Barr wrote that “an analysis was made to learn which apps were offered to students by other universities and, within those offerings, which apps were used most often by students.”

Two universities in Quebec currently offer mobile applications to their students, namely Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and McGill University. While it’s unknown how much Concordia spent to develop the app, Montreal-based Oohlala Mobile Inc. bidded $67,200 to acquire the contract to build McGill’s app, according to a public call for bids on Quebec’s Service électronique d’appel d’offre.

Oohlala Mobile has also developed apps for Rutgers and Seattle University as well as Harvard Law School.

Barr said in early 2017, consultations were held with various university offices and departments, including Student Services Departments, Library and Services and various faculties, to determine what information should be included in the app. The app was then tested for feedback by 180 students during fall orientation.

According to Barr, Concordia will continue to expand and improve the app according to user feedback.

“As feedback comes in, the team will evaluate whether new features can and should be added, and how long it will take to do so,” Barr wrote.

The app currently has an average 3.8/5-star rating on Google Play, including 15 five-star ratings and six one-star ratings.

According to the university spokesperson, information about faculty, staff, alumni and recruitment “will likely be added” in future versions of the app.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

My experience with learning disabilities

One Concordia student’s experience dealing with dyslexia and learning disabilities

It is without question that the greatest thing dyslexia has taught me is patience.

In elementary school, I didn’t start out on the same even playing field as the rest of the kids when it came to reading.  It was obvious to everyone. As a kid, being dyslexic and having memory problems felt like I was trying to join in on a game that, not only did I not know the rules to, but that I wasn’t allowed to play. It was incredibly alienating.

While my friends were reading Magic Tree House books, I couldn’t even read street signs. I knew I was different. At the time, the only logical conclusion I could come to was that I must not be very smart. When you’re nine years old and you think you’re dumb because you can’t read, spell, do math or really participate in school… well it almost shut me down.

Fortunately, I was lucky.  My parents decided to remove me from the French immersion program I was in at the time, and transferred me to a school with a special education program.  I know this was a delicate and serious decision for my parents to make.  Transferring schools meant uprooting the entire social life of a child who was already dealing with severe emotional anxiety.

Obviously, I think they worried that I had trouble making friends. After all, I was a rash-covered, highly nervous little kid who spent the majority of the day in a separate special education class. I only recently found out that my dad was so worried about me during this time that, after dropping me off at school in the mornings, he would sometimes sit in the car and just cry before driving away to work.

I say that I am incredibly lucky because I had a good support system and hard work on my part eventually made things easier.  Also, lots of educational testing, being given the resources I needed in my special education program and having amazing teachers who were thoughtful, kind, passionate, patient and incredibly dedicated made a huge difference. I was given the time and opportunity to come into my own, in a protected bubble where my results on educational testing didn’t matter.

At Concordia, I am still benefiting from the same kinds of resources I had back in elementary school, thanks in large part to the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities and some of the amazing and accommodating professors I have had during my time at Concordia.

My only piece of advice for those with learning disabilities, or for their family members, is to be patient. It can be a very long road when you have a learning disability, so it’s important to celebrate the small victories and remain determined. This patience and hard work will hopefully bring you closer to your goals and to success in school and life, as it did for me.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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