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Boost your mood and immunity

Health experts set up pop-up shops to tell you how
September 20, 2012
By Susan Kelly

Want to make sure you don't come down with the flu just before final exams? Wonder how to shift that case of the I-got-dumped blues? You can get the answers to these and more health-related questions at two day-long events on October 3.

Take a depression screening quiz during the Mental Health Awareness fair, and learn "Six proven ways to strengthen your immune system" at the separate Health Services outreach table, both held on the Sir George Williams Campus.

It's all aimed at keeping you in top mental and physical shape. "We'll provide students with a wealth of information they can use to stay healthy and prevent illness," said Melanie Drew, director of Health Services, which organizes the outreach initiative taking place in the atrium of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building).

Immunization is key. Drew says young women and increasingly men are aware of the importance of the Gardasil vaccination against certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a contributing factor in cervical and other cancers. However, the increase in cases of pertussis (whooping cough) underlines the importance of other vaccines. "It's so important to make sure that the necessary immunizations are up to date for other diseases, including tetanus and influenza," she said.

The other five strategies that can boost the immune system – manage stress, achieve and maintain a healthy weight level, get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet and get regular physical activity – are well known. "Yet so many people are unsure of what works and what doesn't in these areas," said Owen Moran, a registered nurse and health promotion specialist with Health Services. "We can help by providing the best strategies that are based on solid research."

Among the information he and his colleagues will provide at three tables will be self-help guides on everything from how to quit smoking to weight loss regimens that work. The payoff from following the six strategies is immediate, notes Moran. "Physical exercise, healthy diet and sound sleep all contribute to having a sharper mind," he said. "They're simply good practices on all levels."

What: Six proven ways to strengthen your immune system
When: Tuesday, October 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Atrium of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building, 1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.), Sir George Williams Campus

Depression and anxiety are in the top five mental health issues among students seeking help and psychological support, according to Dale Robinson, a psychologist and manager of Counselling and Psychological Services at the Department of Counselling and Development.

Evaluating mental health is almost as easy as getting an x-ray. It begins by filling out a brief depression and anxiety screening questionnaire at the Mental Health Awareness event, to be held in the atrium of the J.W. McConnell Library Building.

Mental health counsellors from the department will be on hand to review the results with participants. "If scores are high, we will invite them to come back and sit with someone to discuss how they can improve their situation," she said. This might involve suggesting a small lifestyle change, or arranging for ongoing counselling or further testing.

This initiative is part of National Depression Screening Day events, taking place across the country. In addition to the optional questionnaire, the screening is an opportunity to learn more about mood and anxiety disorders, and to speak one-on-one with a mental health professional. The timing is particularly fortuitous for students, Robinson says, as the period between mid-October and early December is when such added stresses as exam periods are most likely to trigger a crisis.

The event aims to encourage students to be healthy mentally and to let them know what tools are available for them to achieve this goal. Handouts are available that address relevant issues. You can find out more about workshops and other educational initiatives.

"We'd like students to know that it's normal to feel a certain amount of stress," Robinson said. "And to know that if it all gets to be too much, it may be easier to do something about it than you think."

What: National Depression Screening Day: A Mental Health Awareness Event
When: Tuesday, October 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Atrium of the J.W. McConnell Library Building (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus

Related links:
•    "Oct. 3 - Six proven ways to strengthen your imune system" — featured event on NOW
•    Health Services
•    Counselling and Development events

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