March 2, 2022

Student mental health advocacy gets financial boost with endowment fund from UCalgary

Inaugural winners of SU Mental Health Award announced

The Students’ Union Mental Health Award has been an important initiative at the University of Calgary. Through this award, the Students’ Union has helped shine a spotlight on mental health, bringing much-needed attention to the topic.

The award recognizes undergraduate students doing incredible work in mental health and wellness. It highlights the importance of mental health to our overall well-being, reduces stigma, and creates a space to have compassionate and empathetic dialogue about mental health.

To solidify the importance of this initiative to the campus community, and to recognize the Students’ Union’s long-standing partnership with the university to create a healthy environment for students, the University of Calgary has now established an endowment fund to support the Students’ Union Mental Health Award. The endowment means the award is available for students on an ongoing basis. 

SU President Nicole Schmidt is pleased with this extended financial support. “It is wonderful to see this award, which was piloted as an SU Quality Money project, gain this type of long-term funding. It assures that we can continue to recognize the great work students are doing in the field of mental health.”

The award is valued at $1,500 and up to two undergraduate students in any faculty can win annually. It is administered by Student Wellness Services. The Students’ Union’s partnership with the university to support student health and wellness is longstanding and includes a 2007 gift from the Students’ Union for the SU Wellness Centre, to renovate the Student Wellness Services’ main location in MacEwan Student Centre.

“The well-being of our students is a shared goal between the University of Calgary and the Students’ Union, so we are thrilled to continue our collaborative efforts,” says Dr. Susan Barker, vice-provost (student experience).

Debbie Bruckner, senior director, student wellness - access and support, further describes how the commitment of the Students’ Union has allowed for a strong focus on recognizing students as champions of mental health and well-being.

The University of Calgary would like to thank the Students’ Union for their generous support of this initiative and is also incredibly proud of the work of its student award winners, both past and present, who continue to affect change on this very important topic.

2021 SU Mental Health Award recipients

Lindy Beauchamp-Chester

Lindy Beauchamp-Chester
Bachelor of Social Work

Mental health advocacy has been a driver of Lindy Beauchamp-Chester’s career and is an important aspect of her life.

Central to Beauchamp-Chester’s advocacy for mental health was the influence of her mother, who was an important role model in her life. Her mother was a self-taught tailor and designer whose education and opportunities were impacted by residential school.

“She really advocated for us to recognize that we have our own strengths and abilities, by demonstrating her strengths and abilities,” says Beauchamp-Chester. “That mental health piece has always walked beside me. I carry it in my workplace. I carry it in my school. I carry it in my family life.”

Beauchamp-Chester says staying on top of mental health can be a challenge for anyone. Her method of meeting that challenge is to create a mental health safety plan. Her plan includes identifying people in her life she can reach out to if she wants to talk. It also includes creating opportunities for dialogue and conversation. Other aspects of a mental health safety plan include seeking therapy, taking mental health days when needed, exercising, and in her case, her relationship with Creator and being on the land. 

Beauchamp-Chester currently oversees four fetal alcohol spectrum disorder programs in Grande Prairie. She’s held many other roles in her community and regionally in the North that improved the lives of all community members, but with a particular focus on Indigenous youth and women.

She developed an anti-bullying and -teasing curriculum to deliver to elementary school students. She planned the Spirit Seekers Youth Conference and took the conference from 15 youth to over 150 youth in the second year. She incorporated youth involvement in the planning of the event and created a talent component called ‘So you think you can jig.’ The youth conference served isolated communities that had high suicide rates. She worked with the Aboriginal Head Start program connecting families to cultural activities, and as the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiatives program co-ordinator, she worked to provide health services such as free exercise classes. She also brought the Good Food Bag program to the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre, which helped with food security.

Beauchamp-Chester is in her last year of a four-year degree and plans to complete a master’s degree in social work.

Sophia Tran

Sophia Tran
Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Sophia Tran has worked diligently throughout her degree to improve the conversation around mental health.

Her passion for mental health advocacy was in part sparked through her own journey with mental health. As someone who has dealt with social anxiety and depression, Tran is advocating to normalize the conversation around mental health and hopes to inspire other students to advocate for it as well.

“I want to uplift people who are struggling and encourage them to seek help,” says Tran, who is a fourth-year student.

Tran’s advocacy for mental health on campus led her to take on the role of co-president of Man Up for Mental Health, a student club that won the Students’ Union club advocacy award in 2021. Tran says it was exciting for the club to win the award because it meant that more students were hearing about the club and its mission.

“I found it’s important to uplift the men in my life — especially because there is a stigma around guys feeling the need to hide their emotions and repress them,” says Tran. “There are men in my life who struggle…It’s important to give them opportunity to share and open up.”

Tran also has a passion for photography and has used her Instagram account as a platform to discuss mental health issues she and others face. Tran sees photography as a medium to create a safe space to talk about mental health issues.

“Being in front of the camera can be vulnerable. However, having conversation, exchanging experiences, and offering support can be more casual with my camera,” says Tran.

In addition to Tran’s advocacy during her degree, she became a student in the Canadian Mental Health Association School of Peer Support, which requires 83 hours of training and a 50-hour unpaid internship. Additionally, she volunteers as a crisis responder at Kids Help Phone, a volunteer outreach worker with #BeTheChangeYYC, and was an Adult Care volunteer at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre Society.

“I’m doing my best to improve the mental health dialogue on campus, in my personal life, and through my virtual presence online,” says Tran.


Seeking help at UCalgary

Seeking mental health support and improving understanding of mental health can have a positive impact on well-being. Students can access a variety of mental health services from UCalgary through Student Wellness Services and community partners, such as peer support, counselling and 24/7 after-hours emergency support. 

Learn more