Jan. 28 marks the fifth-annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day that aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. In recent years, mental health has become a large topic of national and international conversation, with postsecondary institutions in particular becoming leaders generating meaningful discussions on mental health and mental illness.
Several groups and individuals at Laurier have made great strides in reducing the stigma around mental illness in recent years.
Dave, a second-year Laurier student, remembers the day he hit rock bottom very clearly: “I remember waking up and saying ‘today’s the day.’ I had a plan and I had the pills to do it. I wasn’t safe. I needed help that night.”
After speaking with counsellors and crisis nurses, Dave rebuilt himself and started on the road to overcoming his mental-health struggle, immersing himself in the Laurier community. “That day that I hit rock bottom could’ve been the worst day of my life, but in a way it was almost the best because when I left, I was on a path to recovery,” he says.
Watch Dave’s story.
After dealing with serious depression in Grade 12, Melody decided she wasn’t going let mental illness keep her from the things she wanted to do. The hardest part, she says, was having that first conversation: “Once you put it out there, you share it with somebody, the worst is over. The hardest part is talking about it.”
Melody, a Laurier music student, has been able to succeed in many areas of her life while dealing with mental health issues, and she owes it to making that first decision to speak up. “I wasn’t scared to talk about it and I was hoping other people wouldn’t be,” she says. “To hear that my struggle was heard and accepted was really big.”
Watch Melody’s story.
Laurier provides several resources to help students with their mental and physical health. In 2012, Laurier became one of the first universities in Canada to create a mental health/student support team leader position to lead the university’s mental health strategy. Adrienne Luft, who has held the position since its creation, is there for students who are seeking help with mental health challenges.
Following a successful model already in place at Laurier’s Brantford campus, the university opened a Student Wellness Centre on the Waterloo campus in the fall of 2014. Combining the existing health and counselling services gives students clear access to the services they require when they need help. The wellness centres on both campuses offer sessions with trained counsellors in addition to medical services.
The Delton Glebe Centre, run by the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, offers multi-faith counselling to help strengthen emotional and spiritual well-being. The centre offers a unique approach to counselling, taking into account a variety of spiritual or faith-based belief systems.
Laurier students are leaders when it comes to promoting dialogue around mental health. Student-run groups and projects such as The Mental Health Education Group and the Burst Your Bubble campaign organize several events promoting positive discussions around mental health. In 2013, Laurier students launched the Laurier Wellness Hub, an online resource for anyone seeking support. The university has also hosted an annual student-led Walk for Mental Health since 2012.
The undergraduate and graduate students’ organizations also provide a range of mental health programs and services. From the annual Wellness Week, organized by the Graduate Students’ Association, to services such as Peer Help Line, provided by the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, students can take advantage of numerous peer support groups.
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