Mental Health and the Importance of Long-Table Discussion

As this year’s SASAH Department Representative for the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council, I met with our director, Joel, and asked him what events he wished to see happen this year. He mentioned that Fourth-Year SASAH student Meg Cormack’s original play, Squalls of Glass, was looking to put on a discussion surrounding mental health. I met with Professor Kim Solga of the Theatre Studies Department and Samantha Urquhart, the President of the SASAH Events Committee, and we decided to organize a Long-Table Discussion on Mental Health and Wellness at Western on January 18 from 5:00 pm-6:30 pm at The ARTS Project. What is a Long-Table? I had no idea either. Kim explained that it is a performance of a dinner party conversation where talk is the only course.

This discussion encourages individuals to discuss difficult topics in a safe environment which was crafted by social justice advocate Lois Weaver. Mental Health is a big topic on campus and everyone has an opinion. I had no idea what this event would produce. What could another conversation do? This long-table was transformative. It brought students, staff, and faculty of Western together to discuss their own experiences with mental health, what the mental health services at Western, if they are effective, what we can change, and so much more.

This was an important event that needed to take place. This conversation needed to happen. This format of a discussion needed to happen. I have never attended an event in which I have been so engaged. Even as a coordinator for this event, I realized that although students believe no one is doing anything to help with mental health resources, staff truly are trying their best. We all work in academia’s high-pressure environment. Every day we are faced with issues of mental health and wellness. The Squalls of Glass Mental Health Long-Table opened a new, transformative discussion of mental health issues and allowed us as a group to produce and generate productive and respectful discussion. Was there a final solution? No. And there will not be for a while. The issues we face regarding mental health and wellness cannot be fixed over an hour-and-a-half discussion. The resources we have at Western, although flawed, are a big step in trying to target the problem and effectively tackle the issues.

Events like these allow all stakeholders on campus to voice their problems, opinions, and suggestions. Although this event has passed, I hope to see more discussions, not only on mental health, in this format. It levels the playing field and provides equal opportunity for everyone to speak. No one is more important, no one sits at the head of the table. The conversation is equal, the exact way it needed to be as every one of us faces issues, questions, and concerns of mental health and wellness. I truly hope that the conversation that was conducted was productive and positive, and I hope that the participants felt as much value in their attendance as I did.

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