On Wednesday, January 31st, Bell hosted their annual Let’s Talk Day and the whole nation answered the call. Every interaction was worth five cents. Interactions on social media and usage of Bell’s text and call services yielded the company donating a total of almost $7 million to mental health awareness and research. Coinciding with this initiative, UTM’s Health and Counselling Centre hosted the Let’s Talk UTM event to amplify this message of refining mental health through candor sharing and human affection.

The core purpose of this particular event was to expose the crippling stigma that inhibits almost two-thirds of individuals affected by mental illness from seeking help. Guided by this logic, HCC’s Wellness Ambassadors sought to establish an inclusive environment, encompassed by various organizations and resources available to a UTM student, proving that this campus is a space for open conversation and support pertaining to mental health. One of the organizations included the International Education Centre that attempts to tailor the education system for UTM’s global students, and operates in a holistic approach to meet everyone’s diverse needs. Their table included arts and crafts for students to design their own flag, or any other cultural symbol, which was subsequently posted over a wall to represent UTM’s multicultural diversity. As well, the Centre of Student Engagement appeared with the most interactive table of the event. Students received the opportunity to mix water, soil, seeds and a hint of miracle growth into a flowerpot, that they could subsequently take home and allow the plant to fully grow. The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre also showcased their services of developing and nurturing students’ academic skills, including writing and math. Other organizations present include the Office of the Registrar that serve as tourist guides of UTM’s academia, and ergo support students in their conundrums pertaining to GPA, finance and tuition, courses, and academics in general.

The HCC had their own tables for promoting their mindfulness meditation program. The program includes free drop-in classes available to all students and requires no experience, commitment, or registration. However, the most vital table at the event stationed a mental health nurse for Q&A, as well as allowed students to write insightful or supportive messages on a poster that were thereafter hung over a board. Some of these are still hung outside the RAWC Gym A/B. This aggregation of messages exhibits the deep consensus of the UTM campus to place a necessary and critical spotlight on mental health awareness. The event also offered some caffeine for students to grab in the morning, as well as a free self-care bag and a Bell Let’s Talk toque.

The centre of attraction was definitely the Stories of Resiliency photo exhibit. Portraits of UTM students were displayed at the centre of the event with a quote pertaining to an important message each one of them had about mental health. It was a heartfelt collage that illuminated the event’s highlight of mental health awareness. The Wellness Ambassadors also compiled a short video on their website of UTM students proclaiming what mental health means to them in their own words.

The main theme of the event was that talking is the most effective prescription for sustaining mental health. Words are the bridges that lead to a healthier mind and body. Best encompassed in Dalai Lama’s own words: “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”