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Mood Walks promote mental health and social connection

Oct 5, 2023 | Vanessa Tignanelli, Storyteller & Content Creator

Group of students walking on trails

“Take a moment to recognize how you feel before we begin our walk, and we will see how perhaps your mood has changed once we’ve finished.” The words set a pace for the group of strangers, who enter the trails for their first Mood Walk of the season.

Winter is coming, and with it, a conversation around mental illness. This week marked National Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time that invites us to share the realities of mental health concerns and advocate for proper funding and accessible treatment for all Canadians. Mental Health Day will be recognized globally on October 10th.


Student Success Services (SSS) at Canadore College dedicates itself to providing assistance, education, referrals, and short-term counselling to students. They organize awareness campaigns, class presentations, education booths, and workshops throughout the year at all campuses. In partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association North Bay and District (CMHA), the college helps students transition from the supports they receive at Canadore to more formal supports in the community. It also opens opportunities for collaboration and programming with other mental health professionals and advocates.

CMHA’s Living Life to the Full program is a free course beginning October 16th through the Village, which will offer mental health promotion certification and discuss the coping skills required to deal with everyday challenges. (Register here)

For its second consecutive year, CMHA will also be facilitating Mood Walks, utilizing the trail systems behind College Drive campus. This program was launched by CMHA Ontario (with support from Conservation Ontario and Hike Ontario) as a way to encourage people to connect their social, physical and mental health. Kyla Venturini, Health Promotions Coordinator at CMHA, says that the program enhances well-being in a variety of ways.

“Utilizing the outdoors to practice mindfulness exercises, recognizing how our body feels, while being around people is the perfect combination,” she explains. “It allows us to be in a nonjudgmental and open space that every person can relate to.”

The Mood Walks proved to be a success after its launch last year. Of the nine students that attended, all but one student were online learners and expressed a desire for the social connection of campus life. The Mood Walks provided a way for them to meet people, and soon the group was meeting up for coffees, to play pool, and formed real friendships.

This year’s Mood Walk participants were greeted by beautiful Fall colours as it kicked off this past Tuesday, October 3rd. The hikes will take place every Tuesday this month from 3-4pm.

Each week will focus on a different topic with this week’s being “social connection.”   Throughout the hike, the group stopped to learn more about each other’s favourite things, and by the end felt as though they were hiking with old friends. The Mood Walk brought together folks that may not have otherwise met: CMHA representatives, Canadore students and staff, North Bay Police, and Nipissing University, which has joined the program this year.

“I have never been to this side of the bridge before,” says Nitish Goyal, first year Bachelor of Finance student at Nipissing. “I wanted to explore the trail with some like-minded people, and that’s exactly what I got today.”

“If I can make one connection, it’s a success,” says Steve Sproule, Community Engagement Officer with the North Bay Police. “We want to be visible, to let people know that we are approachable and to see the police here in North Bay in a friendly light.”

“We’re lucky to have such a huge trail system,” says Alex Dumouchelle, 3rd year Canadore Environmental Technician student and returning Mood Walk participant. “It’s a different experience to walk these trails with people as opposed to when you walk them yourself.”

John Davis, SSS Mental Health and Wellness Nurse says, “This environment helps people feel comfortable to open up. The trails are frequently used by SSS to meet with students who may not feel comfortable meeting in a structured setting and as part of treatment or skill building while practising grounding techniques and mindfulness.”

In addition to physical exercise, students can practice healthy nutrition, hydration, sleep hygiene, social connections and self-care activities, all important factors for mental health. John works with students to rule out any physical conditions which may be affecting a student’s behaviour, mood, energy level, or ability to concentrate. He and the Navigators at SSS are available to help on campus, and will work with community partners in students’ home areas to ensure supports are in place for ongoing follow up once they graduate and are no longer a Canadore student. The partnership with CMHA and other organizations is crucial.

“Stigma remains one of the main barriers preventing most from seeking support for mental health and mental illness,” says John. “Creative initiatives such as this will help normalize the conversation.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call Good2Talk, contact Student Success Services, learn more at one of their upcoming workshops (Canadore Wise Minds Group or Bringing in the Bystander), or visit them at their next education booth on November 8th.

#College Drive #Student Life