UBC President shares story of Mental Health

santa ono

Last evening, UBC President Santa Ono shared his inspiring story of living with bi-polar disorder and having survived two suicide attempts to over 200 members of our community at Willowstone Academy in Kelowna.  Ono inspired the crowd, many of whom were students, to seek help when facing mental health challenges. 

He stated that  1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime and that early detection and treatment of mental illness promises the best outcomes for regaining mental health. 

Santa surprised attendees by sharing the story of how he came to join UBC as President. He explained  how his personal and professional lives collided the moment he was spontaneously moved to share his personal story of living with mental illness publicly. 

At that same time, Santa was being actively recruited by UBC to join the university as President.  Santa feared that the disclosure of his history  of suicide attempts and mental illness would result in UBC’s recruitment committee losing interest in him as a candidate. Admirably,  this was not the case and the recruitment committee’s interest actually peaked from Santa’s courage and honesty.  

Santa used this story at the event to challenge the common concern that being open and honest about mental challenges harms ones career or ability to gain success.  President Ono finished by calling the crowd to action to help end the stigma of mental illness by being open and honest with their families, friends and colleagues.

With President Ono’s help, Third Space Life Charity raised over $25,000 profits at the event and through the generosity of a private foundation, this amount has been matched.  The combined $50,000 raised will go directly to the Third Space Student Care Program at UBC Okanagan Student Union to build a second team of counsellors to support the unprecedented demand by students for mental health services.

The event was made possible by the generosity of: Pushor Mitchell; RBC and RBC Dominion Securities;  UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development, Willowstone Academy and  First Lutheran Church as well as the kind assistance of all volunteers and supporters of the Charity. 

Third Space Life Charity believes in mental health and hope for all.  Third Space was founded in 2013 to offer Kelowna a community place, or ‘Third’ space,  outside of the home (‘first space’) and work (‘second space),  a safe space to exchange ideas, build human connections, have a good time and build supportive relationships. 

Since 2013 Third Space has grown and evolved into three independent yet affiliated parts: 1)   Third Space Life Charity – a registered charity; 2)  Third Space Café – a social enterprise and Kelowna's only non-profit Third Wave café that donates all profits to Third Space Charity; and 3) Third Space MIND –a counselling clinic that provides counselling and therapy services, as well as professional development programs.

The Third Space Life Charity contributes to the health of our community through a number of programs and services.  The innovative Student Care Program at UBC Okanagan has provided close to 2000 free counselling sessions to students on campus in the past two years, as well as providing valuable internships for UBCO graduate students. 

The Third Space UBCO counselling team works 6 days a week on helping student seeking support for anxiety, stress, depression, and many other mental health challenges.

The Third Space community care program provided over 350 counselling sessions last year to members of our local community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access counselling services.  

Third space provides numerous community initiatives annually to share  mental health information and to promote mental wellness and hope.