Melissa Baxter has always had an interest in the area of mental health. Academically, she studied mental health from both a sociological and policy perspective, beginning with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at St. Thomas University followed by a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration at Ryerson University.
"I'm interested in the social determinants of health and how to support those who are vulnerable," she says. "There is a complex array of factors involved in promoting positive mental health and it is important to note that these determinants do not act in isolation."
At Ryerson, Baxter completed a major research paper on Canada's mental health "policy," or lack thereof, examining issues of fragmentation and the implications for access to mental health services.
She then returned to New Brunswick and worked with the Canadian Mental Health Association for seven years in the area of programming, community engagement, and awareness.
"Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to recognize larger policy and system-wide issues, as well as the day-to-day challenges faced by those in the community," she says.
For the past two years Baxter has been working in Mount Allison's Wellness Centre as the mental health educator.
"My goal is to increase mental health literacy within this demographic," she says. "There are increasing numbers of students who are presenting with mental health problems or disorders and we have to determine the most effective ways to support these students."
In her role, Baxter delivers mental health outreach programming and awareness initiatives. This year she has worked more closely with students on these initiatives.
"We need to get students engaged in supporting these programs to make them work," she says.
Some of this year's initiatives include #RethinkTheDrink, discussing the harms of alcohol; Bell Let's Talk Day; and the second annual Mental Health Summit later this term. Baxter has also been working with Dr. Christiana MacDougall on the Pathway through Mental Health Care for Postsecondary Settings research project.
Having a young family, she says she prioritizes her own mental health by knowing when to say no, when to ask for help, and when to take a break.
She encourages students to support their own mental health by eating well, sleeping well, exercising daily, moderating alcohol and caffeine intake, and being social.