Ontario university students rise to the challenge using social media to advance mental health on campuses province-wide! 

(front) Daniela Kwiatkowski, Julian Surujballi and Kaitlynn Kerridge; (back) Michelle Gajewski, Stacey Riddell, Stephanie Lu, Kristin Brown, Suzie Alexander and Kevin Dueck

(front) Daniela Kwiatkowski, Julian Surujballi and Kaitlynn Kerridge; (back) Michelle Gajewski, Stacey Riddell, Stephanie Lu, Kristin Brown, Suzie Alexander and Kevin Dueck

The winners of COU’s province-wide Mental Health 2.0 Student Competition were announced and celebrated at a ceremony held at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto on March 17, 2014. Alf Spencer, from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), presented the awards to the student winners in front of an audience filled with representatives from the university, government, mental health, and social media communities.

Brock University’s Cope-Care-Connect, headed by Community Health Sciences student Kaitlyn Kerridge, took home the top prize and a cash award of $1,500.

Second place (and $1,000) went to the University of Waterloo’s Stand Up to Stigma, organized by students Kristin Brown, Stephanie Lu and Suzie Alexander.

Third place (and $500) was tied between the University of Windsor’s Stacey Riddell and Michelle Gajewski for Community for 1st Year Post-Secondary Students with Social Anxiety, and Western University’s Vitals Student Wellness Initiative, organized by students Kevin Dueck, Julian Surujballi and Daniela Kwiatkowski. The Vitals project also won the People’s Choice Award, which was voted by the public.

“Students’ mental health remains a top priority for Ontario’s universities and Mental Health 2.0 is just one way universities are addressing it,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU’s President and CEO. “The knowledge gained around mental health will help students act as more informed and compassionate members of their communities.”

Before the ceremony, the student winners had the chance to pitch their concepts to, and receive feedback from a panel of social media experts: Sarena Ally, client partner at Facebook; Jeremy Barker, former National Post social media editor; and Cher Jones, social media instructor and branding coach.

COU’s competition received funding from the provincial government, as well as tremendous support from university representatives and external parties who generously volunteered their time.

A working group set up the competition’s complete structure – from process and timelines, to criteria and judging. Chaired by Ryerson University’s John Austin (who was on hand to make introductions at the pitch session), this working group was made up of Dan Johnson, University of Toronto; Hamza Khan, Ryerson University; Brandon Sloan, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA); Heather Stuart, Queen’s University; and Hilary Tyler, Brock University, in addition to COU staff.

A panel of judges had the task of assessing the creative submissions and selecting 10 finalists, and from these the four winners were ultimately chosen. This panel, selected by the working group, was made up of Chris Fernlund, OUSA; Dr. David Goldbloom, CAMH; Phil Haid, Public Inc.; Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CAMH; and Alf Spencer, ADO.

The six remaining finalists rounding out the judges’ top ten list were: