May 3, 2021

First-ever SU Mental Health Award recognizes leaders in mental health awareness

Four undergrads rewarded for their advocacy, leadership and hands-on volunteer work

The recipients of the SU Mental Health Award are students who display leadership in the mental health community and are passionate about helping those with mental illness. The award recognizes undergraduate students who are advocates for mental health and wellness, stigma reduction, and improving the dialogue about mental illness with compassion and empathy.

There was very strong interest from students for the award this year, which highlights the financial need that students have, and is a strong testament to the outstanding achievements and contributions made by students to our campus community.

This past semester, a Quality Money collaboration between Student Wellness Services and the Students’ Union provided four deserving undergraduate students each with a $1,500 SU Mental Health Award. SU Vice-President of Student Life, Assad Ali Bik, says, “It was fantastic to see all the great work that students were doing in the field of mental health. This was the first time the SU Mental Health Award was given out and we had some great nominees. Students have always advocated for and put forward amazing initiatives, and I’m thrilled that we were able to reward their great work.”

The recipients are:

  • Jen Park, Faculty of Science
  • Aaron So, Faculty of Arts
  • Adesua Egbase, Faculty of Kinesiology
  • Name withheld at request of student, Schulich School of Engineering

Jenny Park’s dedication to those in need of mental health support was motivated by both their research and hands-on volunteer work on campus. Working with the university’s Mental Health Association, Neuroscience Student’s Association, and the Student Advisory Council, Park advocated, planned and promoted mental health awareness on campus. They did this through events, peer support and providing a representative voice. They worked closely with Student Wellness Services (SWS) and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also acted as a second line of response for students seeking virtual support. Park has made it their goal to become a source of support and comfort for those who are struggling.

Aaron So is a passionate leader in mental health advocacy on campus and in the broader Calgary community. They have worked to create opportunities to de-stigmatize the dialogue around mental health and mental illness while also building resilient communities to support others. So led and co-facilitated a UFlourish panel event addressing the complexity of cultural identity and mental health, volunteered at the Distress Centre, and became a facilitator for SWS’s weekly Coffee and Connection event (an on-going discussion group about mental health, student experiences, and related topics).

As a UCalgary residence wellness community adviser, Adesua Egbase influenced the development of residential communities by acting as a positive resource for residence students. They helped to promote an inclusive living environment for a diverse demographic of students, and encouraged the importance of cultural representation. Egbase advocated for mental, physical, and spiritual wellness in residence by hosting wellness-related events and podcasts. Egbase also collaborated with the UofC Mental Health Pros club to speak about Black mental health for Black History Month.

The fourth recipient has committed themselves to reaching those struggling with mental illness and individuals with development disabilities. As a member of the United Voices Mental Health Committee, they introduced a mental health strategy for immigrant children to City Council. This strategy includes workshops about stigma reduction, peer support, and mental health resources for Indigenous people. Partnering with local community and ethnic groups, they encouraged conversations on mental health and established a mental health advocacy task force. As a youth leader for Inclusion Alberta, they led the southern Alberta region in the advocacy of mental health for those with developmental disabilities, They also served as a panellist for the International Conference for Developmental Disabilities to help shine a light on the mental health needs for those with a disability. They also helped raise awareness about mental health amongst immigrant families by collaborating with the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit.

The SU Mental Health Award can be awarded to full-time undergraduate students in any UCalgary faculty. Selection is determined on the contribution each student has made to the UCalgary community, as well as the demonstrated effects of their advocacy efforts and/or impact of their lived experience with mental health struggles.

Applications will reopen in October 2021. For more information, please visit the SU Mental Health Award website.

The SU Mental Health Award is part of the Quality Money program, a partnership between the Students’ Union and the University of Calgary that gives the campus community a unique opportunity to bring forward ideas leading to the enhancement of the overall student experience. The program has contributed to the well-being, mental health, physical fitness, and general safety of the campus community