2019 MHFA Scholarship Winners

iStudents for Mental Health are excited to announce the four winners of the 2019 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Scholarships, funded by the UofT Faculty of Information Office of the Dean, Wendy Duff. Scholarship winners will receive training and certification through the Mental Health Commission of Canada to learn to recognize signs of mental health distress and crisis, and follow a first aid protocol to assess the need for help, provide immediate care, and facilitate connections with appropriate mental health resources & supports.

Information professionals serve people who experience mental distress at times. Vulnerable populations seek out our institutions as safe spaces, we serve patrons who face mental stressors in the pursuit of their goals, and our institutions or the information housed within, sometimes cause distress. All of these circumstances can, and do, lead to mental health distress and crises developing in the workplaces where we intend to build our careers. We also believe that information professionals in all disciplines play important roles in dismantling stigma by facilitating access to valid information.

The 2019 MHFA Scholarship winners demonstrated awareness of these issues in the contexts where they hope to work.

Aiden Brydon (LIS, Year 2) aims to work with youth in a public school library. With experience working as an elementary and junior high school teacher, Aiden has a strong awareness of the range of mental health challenges that face youth as well as the struggles public schools must overcome in order to meet the mental health needs of young students.

Bronwyn Graham (UXD & MMst) aims to apply user-centred design principles to develop information systems that aid people seeking mental health resources appropriate to them. Bronwyn hopes to incorporate learnings from MHFA training, along with experience working as a Wellbeing Assistant at the University of British Columbia Wellness Centre, into student initiatives at UofT and the Faculty of Information.

Lisa Tower (LIS, Year 1) aims for a career as a public librarian and recognizes the importance of having an unbiased, compassionate approach to connecting with the range of patrons who access public libraries, especially marginalized populations. Lisa recognizes library outreach and programming as an important means of helping to support mental health awareness and access to mental health resources.

Linda Yang (LIS, Year 1) aims to work as a medical librarian. Linda recognizes the mental health stresses that medical professionals – doctors, nurses, researchers, and other health care professionals – as well as the barriers that may prevent them from seeking help. Linda believes a medical librarian should be knowledgeable on mental health to be able to connect confidently with medical library patrons to recommend appropriate informational resources and support-focused resources on mental health.

iStudents for Mental Health would like to thank all the applicants for their reflections on the importance of mental health awareness and preparedness in the information professions. All the applications were well written and it was not easy picking the winners!

We’d like to highlight some other opportunities in Toronto to receive mental health related training. Stella’s Place, an organization focused on young adult mental health, offers a number of training programs to young adults up to 29 years of age, free of charge. They offer Peer Support Training, an 8-12 week course, in partnership with George Brown College, CAMH Toronto, and the Gerstein Crisis Centre. Stella’s place offers shorter length training programs as well, including SAFEtalk and ASIST focused on suicide risk awareness & intervention, and Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP I & II) peer group therapy & facilitator training focused on self-directed wellness toolkit development. Here at the Faculty of Information, SAFEtalk was offered as an iSkills workshop this year (Winter 2019), organized by Inforum Outreach Librarian Kathleen Scheaffer, training provided through LivingWorks education. We plan to continue to seek out and incorporate useful and accessible mental health training opportunities for future librarians & information professionals here at the Faculty of Information. 

Finally, we would like the thank MISC and the Faculty of Information for their support and funding of this scholarship program.