Rachel Thorburn: The missing piece in mental health

head shot of RachelFor all the increase in conversations about mental health, Rachel Thorburn thinks one critical piece is missing: mental health literacy.

Rachel notes that only 20 percent of people with mental health problems seek treatment, and that many students who have died by suicide at UWaterloo never accessed support. She wonders whether a key factor in this is a lack of literacy. “There’s not a lot of formal education, especially for young people at the age when mental health issues often starts. What is normal? When do you need to find extra help? What does that look like?”

A third-year Psychology and Business student, Rachel had never heard about social entrepreneurship until her last co-op term when “I realized that there was a whole world of young people making social change.” She came to GreenHouse, passionate about youth, mental health, and suicide prevention, and has been helped to narrow down her ideas. She is now developing a school-based mental health literacy program for local high school students, helping them understand signs, symptoms, coping skills, and support structures.

While she hopes to do a pilot project by the end of the term, she acknowledges the whole project can be overwhelming in its scope and potential.

“Talking with GreenHouse coaches has been very helpful: They help me simplify and identify concrete steps for this project.”

Rachel has also found it rewarding to meet other GreenHouse students who are also passionate about mental health.

“They asked important questions that helped me develop my model.”

Rachel is also grateful for her business coach, who has been through GreenHouse herself and who has helped the students understand a business model that will help them make the difference they want to make: In this case, to educate people about what mental health is in order to make it easier for people to go through.



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