Phillip Thomas was a special student at the University of Calgary.
Intelligent and athletic, he had an incredible ability to make everyone laugh. As a member of the UofC Calgary Dinos tennis team, and a master’s student in Math and Computer Science, Phillip had a bright future.
However, Phillip passed away in 2019 at the age of 25, following a mental health battle.
“He was an incredibly bright and talented young man and was able to brighten many of his fellow students’ days. He was one of the most perceptive and unique minded people some have ever met, he was accomplished, supported and loved, and yet he battled anxiety and depression most of his adult life,” says Vanessa Thomas, Phillip’s sister.
To honour Phillip’s legacy, and to support other young adults with their mental health, Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region (CMHA Calgary) is launching a brand-new resource called EQUIPPED.
Made possible by an anonymous donation in Phillip’s memory, EQUIPPED is a free online learning platform that offers young adults self-paced courses about mental well-being.
The site currently offers two courses: Mental Health Awareness and Stress Management and Healthy Coping.
“The emerging adult years are a unique time in life that can bring increased opportunities but also increased pressures,” says Michelle Wagner, CMHA Calgary’s Director, Operations – Community Mental Health and Wellness. “EQUIPPED has been designed to provide young people with the tools they need to understand their own mental health and learn how they can support friends who may be struggling as well.”
Sadly, mental health challenges are common for many young adults. In addition to the general stresses experienced by young people, Youth Mental Health Canada estimates that by “age 25, approximately 20 percent of Canadians will have developed a mental illness.” However, they also indicate that there is evidence that shows how “promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.”
CMHA Calgary’s existing YouthSMART program for students ages 12-18 delivers mental health education sessions in schools and recognizes how early education is making a difference.
“Our YouthSMART school sessions are very popular – in fact, we are already booked for the 2022-2023 school year,” says Wagner. “And we hear wonderful feedback from teachers, school counsellors, students, and our facilitators that these courses are helping teens learn about how to build their own mental well-being. EQUIPPED is a more mature version of what we offer through YouthSMART, and we are excited to be extending these educational opportunities to this older age group as well.”
In addition to interactive learning modules and quizzes, the EQUIPPED platform also features downloadable workbooks that young adults can use to further explore ideas and concepts.
“There are a variety of acute mental health supports for youth in our community, but we wanted to take advantage of technology and offer a gateway into learning about mental well-being. We anticipate that by taking the courses available on EQUIPPED, some young people will be learning these concepts for the first time, and it is our great hope that these skills will help equip them for good mental health in the years to come,” concludes Wagner.
The Thomas family is equally excited about the courses, and what they may offer to other young adults in the Calgary region.
“It breaks our hearts that Phillip left us so soon, but he lives on in our memories and stories, and in what all of us have and will become because of him,” conveys Vanessa Thomas. “Our hope is that this program equips teens and young adults with the tools and resources they need to cope with mental health struggles, build resilience, and end the stigma around mental health. CMHA Calgary has helped our family survive this terrible tragedy, and we hope this program can help prevent another one.”
EQUIPPED is now live and available to everyone at www.equipped.youthsmart.ca.