The former Canadian First Lady and mental health advocate, Margaret Trudeau, is expected to share her life story and personal struggle with mental health challenges during a free lecture on September 18 in IB.

Margaret Trudeau’s talk comes as part of a broader University of Toronto mental health and wellness campaign, which seeks to engage “in creative ways to develop healthy lifestyle choices, learn how to cope with the challenges of failure while seeking success, and building capacity in students … to understand that mental health is a component of our overall health and wellbeing.”

Nicolle Wahl of the UTM Office of Communications told The Medium that Trudeau is a prime choice to host the talk due to her personal experience. Trudeau’s struggle “furthers the important conversation about promoting mental wellbeing and ending the stigma about mental health issues.”

The former First Lady became a spokesperson for mental health awareness, after the loss of her son, which caused her to experience depression and mood swings.

Andrea Carter, the assistant dean of Student Wellness, Support & Success, reinforced the significance of Trudeau’s talk at UTM, emphasizing the important role it played in breaking down the social stigma surrounding mental illness.

“At UTM, we engage in awareness, education, training and anti-stigma strategies with students, staff and faculty. For example: the UTM Wellness Ambassadors Program provides students with information, tools, and resources to empower them to make healthy choices in support of their personal and academic goals; and supports the development of internal systems and structures that encourage and foster student health and well-being on campus. Furthermore, the mental health framework addresses the mental wellbeing of faculty as well.”

According to Carter, the program was founded in 2014 by the Provostial Advisory Committee and has been providing students at all three campuses with resources and services to handle mental health concerns.

“One of the barriers to maintaining good mental health is the stigma that is attached to mental illness. Often, individuals struggle with “blips” in their mental health and don’t seek out support because they are afraid it means they have a mental illness or are not able to manage as well as their peers,” said Carter.

“The truth is, in every person’s life there will be times in which feeling anxious or sad is an expected response to the stress and challenges one might be experiencing.”

By hosting talks such as Trudeau’s, Carter hopes that students and faculty can learn to better cope with feelings of anxiety and stress. She argues that by breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health through dialogue, individuals will be more inclined to communicate their own feelings of anxiousness and sadness.

“Talking about mental health and wellness normalizes the times in which we all experience challenges. There is so much pressure to be ‘perfect’; a simple review of Instagram or Facebook will leave you believing that everyone wakes up in the morning beautiful, can survive off of kale shakes, and has a perfect life. This simply is not true,” said Carter.

“Conversations about how to manage stress, anxiety and failures assist not only in helping students, staff and faculty to establish healthy lifestyle choices and coping mechanisms, but it also assists in de-stigmatizing mental health issues.”

Tickets to Trudeau’s talk can be booked online on UTM’s website under the “50 Years of UTM” tab.

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