In Dr. David Yi’s office in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, a little blue elephant sits on his desk.
The figurine is a sign that students are welcome to come in and talk about any mental health issues they or someone close to them may be experiencing.
Dr. Yi, an assistant professor in adapted physical activity, is a volunteer in the national Elephant in the Room Anti-stigma Campaign offered by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.
“I want students to know they can comfortably talk with me about stressors in their lives,” he said. “When I was a student, I connected with faculty as mentors. Now, I want to offer the same to my students.”
Several other faculty members are participating in the campaign, meaning there are numerous offices in the school’s hallways with elephants extending invitations to talk.
Engaging in conversation with students is important to Dr. Yi.
Each week he offers coffee and tea talks, when students gather in his office to connect on life, hobbies and interests.
“Our informal chats enable me to get to know the students personally, which transfers to the classroom, where I can tailor learning to student interests.”
Logan Slade, a bachelor of kinesiology student in his fourth year, has been championing the initiative.
“The goal of this campaign is to reduce stigma around all mental health issues,” said Mr. Slade. “Discussions between students and faculty could range from venting about a bad day, to feeling comfortable discussing academic challenges you are facing while coping with a mental illness.”
The Elephant in the Room Anti-stigma Campaign is coinciding with Bell Let’s Talk day, taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 31.