media release

New initiative targets mental-illness stigma

September 26, 2013
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Contact:
Erika Horwitz, SFU Health and Counselling Services, 778.782.3197, ehorwitz@sfu.ca
Jennifer Perutka, SFU Health and Counselling Services, 778.782.4692, jenn_perutka@sfu.ca   
Dixon Tam, SFU media relations, 778.782.8742, dixont@sfu.ca

Simon Fraser University has launched Hi FIVE, an initiative aimed to alter negative attitudes and behaviours towards anyone currently experiencing or has a history of mental health distress.

Hi FIVE, led by SFU Health and Counselling Services, aims to create a uniquely positive campus-wide safe space with “Friendship, Invite conversation, Value everyone’s gift, Eliminate stigma” at the core of its message.

The initiative invites the university community to take a pledge promoting mental wellness through open conversation and awareness so others may disclose mental health issues and history without fear or judgment.

Erika Horwitz, associate director of SFU Health and Counselling Services, has a daughter who struggled with anxiety and depression. This motivated her to develop the project with the support of other B.C. post-secondary institutions and the Canadian Mental Health Association. Other schools have indicated they are hoping to launch the initiative across their campuses, too.

“One in six Canadians is in need of mental health support, but many are hesitant to seek help because of the stigma attached to it. We won’t avoid seeing a doctor for chest pains, so why do we avoid mental health professionals?” Horwitz says. “The root of this initiative is to invite compassion, connection, and recognize we all have a gift to contribute. “

As part of the initiative, five travel diaries are being spread out in public areas across SFU’s three campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Surrey. These travel diaries invite anyone who comes across them to anonymously write their story of mental health or illness. This is aimed at starting the conversation and reminding others that they are not alone. Excerpts of entries will be made available online.

Horwitz hopes SFU students will eventually run the program with support from other departments and groups. With help from the Student Union Advocacy Committee, the program has already garnered more than 140 students interested in being a part of the movement.

For more information on the initiative, please visit the official Hi F.I.V.E. page.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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