A drawing of a stick figure wearing a grey hat, red mittens and red boots. They are holding a large sign that says "Let's Talk". One of their shoelaces is untied, and they are tracking muddy footprints in.

Bell Let’s Talk: Building a Support Network on Campus

I have a super power. When I’m a part of a group chat with more than four people, if I say something, the conversation immediately stops. Sometimes for two months (not an exaggeration). I wish I were kidding. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I have an aversion to sharing my honest feelings with people outside of my immediate family-  I’m convinced that they would see it and think, “Well, okay then, she’s weird… Better ignore that.” Or, “When will she get the hint? We don’t care.” It’s been a problem for a while, and only recently have I started trying to more openly talk about things. Anyway, this brings me to the topic at hand. Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, a day focused on ending the stigma surrounding mental health. It’s not just important and meaningful, it’s necessary.A drawing of a stick figure wearing a grey hat, red mittens and red boots. They are holding a large sign that says "Let's Talk". One of their shoelaces is untied, and they are tracking muddy footprints in. The reasoning may be different, but most people can probably (hopefully?) agree on that. For me, the necessity lies in making sure people can speak up and ask for help when they need to. Having a network of friends and family to be there for you when you need somebody is incredibly important. There are studies backing this up, and the Five Ways to Wellbeing initiative the Healthy U of T team promotes on Instagram emphasizes this by focusing on connection. Before coming to U of T, I already struggled with talking to people outside of my parents- I was convinced that I was oversharing or would simply drive people away. Funny how for a lot of people, fear of driving people away actually drives them away. When I let the comfort of my home to come to Toronto, I didn’t realize at the time that I would be leaving my parents- my support network- behind. It quickly became obvious, however, and I made the mistake of not doing anything about it. I let my fear get the better of me, and for the first two years tried to handle things on my own. I let it build up, and at the end of second year I was in a bad state with nobody to talk to about it. Every year on Bell Let’s Talk day, there are thousands of posts detailing individual journeys with mental health. One that stuck out to me two years ago was an acquaintance who posted about her amazing friends, who supported her through tough times. Through fault of nobody but me, I didn’t have the ability to reach out to friends and ask for help. I didn’t put myself in a position to talk and have people listen, and it was primarily because I wasn’t comfortable with people thinking about me, if that makes sense. Every year Bell Let’s Talk works to end the stigma by making a community that can openly share and support others- and this includes the stigma felt by those facing mental health concerns. In the past year and a half, I’ve expanded my support network to include health professionals at the Health & Wellness Centre on campus. I was lucky, and when I worked up the nerve to start the process it went fairly quickly for me. But for a lot of people, this isn’t the case. Despite working for an inclusive and accessible clinic for students, there are people who do not feel safe or comfortable accessing their surfaces, and for those people, being able to reach out to family and friends is even more important. Bell Let’s Talk is giving us the opportunity to do this, and it’s evident in the number of posts every year detailing struggle and support. Maybe I’m still not able to connect with friends the way I see others doing, but Bell Let’s Talk makes me feel like one day, I’ll be able to. Now you’ve heard my thoughts, as somebody who has never posted for Bell Let’s Talk. What are your thoughts? Have you participated? I’d love to hear about the experience of other U of T students. Stay warm!  

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