Mental illness

A Sobering Look at University Mental Health

A Sobering Look at University Mental Health

Riley Lynch, a fourth year physics student at the University of Guelph, a lover of the universe and nature, died by suicide on January 19 (Goffin, 2017). According to the recent article in The Star, this is the fourth suicide at the University of Guelph since September 2016 – the highest number seen in any academic year (Goffin, 2017).

Although counselling, anonymous peer support/crisis lines, therapy, and psychiatrists are available at the school to address students’ issues, the demand is higher than the supply. In addition, short-term issues such as breakups are focused on, as opposed to chronic or complex mental health issues that require ongoing and intensive care (Goffin, 2017). Students are at a vulnerable point in their life, due to many being away from home, often being the age when they are cut off from adolescent mental health services (Goffin, 2017). 

Mental Illness & Leadership

When we picture a person in a position of leadership, certain traits usually come to mind: emotional stability, social boldness, self-assurance, i.e., someone who is thick-skinned.  

It’s no surprise that in a society where mental illness is seen as a personal weakness, and where weaknesses are concealed at all costs, that we dismiss the idea that individuals suffering from mental illness can achieve leadership roles.

At times, mental illness can make getting out of bed and into the office a tremendous task on it’s own, but that’s not to say that having a mental illness doesn’t make you “leadership material”.

Articles in the Wall Street Journal, CBC News, and Forbes remind us of prominent leaders who battled with mental illness, including:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Martin Luther King Jr
  • Winston Churchill
  • Mahatma Gandhi

The authors describe how the qualities resulting from their mental illness actually helped them to be effective leaders. For example, “manic depressive people are often more creative, more empathetic and realistic than the more mentally healthy (…) these people tend to succeed in times of crisis” (The Associated Press, August, 2016), or “mildly depressed people (…) see the world more clearly” as depression “has been shown to encourage traits of realism and empathy” (Ghaemi, 2011). 

Realism and a heightened sensitivity to others’ feelings are traits that can help any boss at work be more effective at their role. Though their qualities helped them through high-pressure times, that is not to say that having a mental illness makes things easier. These great individuals had their downfalls too, just like everyone will. What this does tell us is that mental illness doesn’t have to stop anyone from having goals of being a leader at work, school, or elsewhere. 


The Associated Press. (2016). Some great leaders had mental illness and it may have helped. CBC News.

Ghaemi, N. (2011). Depression in command. The Wall Street Journal.

Allen, F. E. (2011). Does being seriously depressed make you a better leader? Forbes.

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The Many Unknowns about Depression

The Many Unknowns about Depression

This article from The Guardian aims to answer the complicated question "what is depression?" in response to a commonly googled phenomenon. We recommend a read through this comprehensive article to learn from these interesting perspectives and in this post will share some points that stood out to us.

Many of us know that mental illness is complicated and impacted by countless factors. Mental illnesses present themselves differently in every person, and treatment options will affect two people differently as well. This article highlights the uncertainties that medical professionals have about depression, and shares some theories about why the illness exists. Despite having such a high prevalence, causes of depression are mostly guesswork at this point. Symptoms vary from individual to individual. Treatment options are often trial and error and it takes a great deal of time to develop a suitable and long-term treatment plan for each individual.