Stacie Smith, a recent grad from Dalhousie University, had her fourth-year interrupted by COVID-19. This change had Smith thinking of ways she could help students during the pandemic, which is how the COVID-19 Student Support Network was born.
“I thought I could make a good resource for students to use, especially once we knew COVID wasn’t going away anytime soon,” said Smith.
Smith spent her summer planning and organizing the project. It’s a website that offers resources for mental health assistance along with volunteer opportunities and a network called Mobilize.
Her plan to help students began when she took part in a mental health design lab put on by Mind Your Mind Canada. The organization assists students in creating mental health initiatives and projects by bringing together a group of people from across Canada. The students learn things like graphic design, grant writing, website design and other ways to plan and create a project.
Smith said Mobilize is a cross between Twitter and Facebook. Students can post discussions, their thoughts and feelings, ask questions and give advice. Mobilize is an external site Smith used for the network.
Some of the projects students produced through Mind Your Mind Canada are focused on COVID-19, so Smith said she chose to add a mental health awareness aspect.
“A lot of students I’ve talked with feel like they’re teaching themselves five classes. This gives them an outlet to be able to talk about how they’re feeling and maybe get some advice on how to better cope,” she said.
Along with making connections amongst other students, Mobilize allows students to get quick and easy access to mental health resources. Smith said the pandemic added longer wait times when making an appointment to see a doctor or therapist.
The website launched on Oct. 21. Students can access the network through the website by clicking the Mobilize tab at the top of the page.
Students will have to fill out an online form with their basic information to sign up.
Smith brought a team together once she realized how big the project would be. She said her team consists of volunteers from across the country and she hopes to expand her team as the network grows.
Smith said she is looking into starting a student ambassador program and having an online summit with Jack.org, a charity of young Canadian leaders working towards dismantling barriers around mental health.
The team will be keeping students updated on events through their social media.
“I’ll be continuing to add resources [and] volunteer opportunities to make sure we have the most up-to-date information on how to support students,” said Smith. “We’re open to ideas on how to make this more user friendly.”
Although Smith said she’s busy this year with starting a new job in Halifax, doing an online course and starting up the network, she’s excited to help students.
“I want students to remember that you’re not alone, we’re all feeling overwhelmed right now and we will get through this together,” she said.
“There are lots of resources out there.”