Students stage a different kind of all-nighter

'Up All Night' campaign for mental health in the workplace promises a night of fun, learning and networking

Many college students are already familiar with all-nighters… and not in a good way.

But some college students in East York have put together an all-nighter that is good — good, that is, for the community.

On Thursday night, March 31, they’ll be holding an overnight event at Centennial College’s East York campus called “Up All Night.” It’s part of a short-term campaign that students at the campus have created to raise awareness around mental health in the workplace.

The event is being overseen by Donna Lindell, coordinator of the public relations program at Centennial’s Carlaw Avenue campus, called the Story Arts centre. She said Up All Night is the product of an ongoing umbrella initiative for social action at the campus, called Project Fusion. Project Fusion, in turn, has received support from a local agency that helps facilitate campaigns around social issues, called Civic Action.

“Project Fusion is really meant to be a collaborative initiative where we bring all of the programs from the Story Arts Centre together on one project,” Lindell said. “Mental health in the workplace being the subject” this time around.

According to Lindell, the initiative for mental health started as input from the different programs at the campus, and it was rolled into one big project organized by her public relations students.

But while the PR students took the lead in organizing, the journalism students created a magazine related to mental health, the graphic design students created the posters, the dance students will be putting on a show at the event and the film and broadcast students will be filming the entire night.

“It is a multi-layered campaign done in two months,” said Lindell.

Arlette Bax, a student at the campus and one of the organizers, explained the rationale for an all-night event:

“For people who struggle with mental illness, night-time is the most difficult time for them because they’re at home and they may be alone. So we are staying up all night in solidarity with them.”

Lindell added that, beyond mental illness, this campaign is also focusing on the younger generation that is now transitioning from school to the workplace. She referred to them by the increasingly common label, millennials:

“We’re looking at what keeps millennials up at night. What are the stressers of this demographic that are about to enter the workforce? So employers have an understanding of their stress factors.”

Here’s what will be happening at the event. The evening will start off with a discussion panel involving different members of the community. There will be representatives from Civic Action, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Bell Canada, as well as some students. There will be conversation about mental health as well as a networking session.

From 1-4 a.m., there will be a workshop on suicide prevention training. At the end of the training, attendees will receive certification.

In addition to that, there will be treats and fun activities during the night. According to student organizer Alina Pavlova, “There will be a movie session, a yoga session in the morning, different workshops bringing people together and talking over the stigma of mental health.”

And, as a practical matter, Pavlova said, “We will have ping-pong tournaments and video games to keep everyone awake.” Bax added that students from the college’s new dance program will perform and take part in a workshop. The fine arts program will hold an adult colouring book activity and the music program will be putting on a show as well.

The event is open to the public, so there will be posters and signs at the main doors of the building at 951 Carlaw Avenue (at Mortimer Avenue) as well as inside — directing participants to the different activities that will be occurring in different areas of the school.

Up All Night is also a fundraiser for The Friendship Bench organization. The Friendship Bench seeks to build and install yellow park benches on secondary and post-secondary campuses where students who are suffering from mental health issues may seek a friend. Lindell hopes to have a yellow bench installed at the Story Arts Centre for people to sit down and have conversations.

“This will be the legacy piece of the campaign,” said Lindell. But she added that she considers the event itself to be a legacy.

“There has never been an all-night, 12-hour event in the history of the college,” she said.

Lindell’s public relations students are seeking out local businesses to sponsor the event as well as to donate prizes and tickets for different shows for the fundraising raffle.

While it is a campaign originating within the East York campus of the college, Lindell said that “anyone who has an interest in learning about mental health in the workplace is also invited.”

Up all Night will begin at 7 p.m. on the evening of March 31 and end at 7 a.m. on the morning of April 1. It will be an open event and staying for the entire evening is not obligatory.

Individuals wishing to make a donation can do so at the Up All Night page, at www.sponsormyevent.com