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Mount Royal “#hashtags” out stigma surrounding mental illness

On Jan. 28 the Digital Pathways team at the Students’ Association (SAMRU) of Mount Royal University, in partnership with Mount Royal University, will combat stigma surrounding mental illness

After boldly taking the conversation on mental health where it’s never gone before, Crescent Heights High School student Brett Rothery will be at Mount Royal University on Jan. 28 to promote Bell Canada's annual Let's Talk campaign.

Rothery captured front-page headlines — and actor William Shatner’s attention (Shatner is involved in supporting similar initiatives) — earlier this month with his successful social media campaign. To date, the Calgary teen has raised more than $20,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association through his national #CHHSLetsTalk hashtag campaign that’s been tweeted more than 200,000 times.

Rothery has joined forces with Mount Royal University to help promote awareness of Bell Canada’s fifth annual mental health campaign to students.

On Jan. 28 the Digital Pathways team at the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU), in partnership with Mount Royal University, will be once again combating stigma surrounding mental illness. The event will occur throughout the day at locations across campus, as well as online, taking advantage of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign and the #BellLetsTalk charity hashtag on social media. Bell will contribute $.05 to mental health related initiatives for every text message sent, and mobile and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Alliance customers, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook share of the Bell Let's Talk Day image.

Rothery says it’s important to take part in events such as the Mount Royal one, because every opportunity to speak openly about mental health breaks down stigma.

“Success for this campaign is dependent on conversations being started and the stigma behind mental health issues being reduced,” Rothery says.

“The goal has always been to have people talk about mental health issues more openly and feel comfortable knowing that there was an open forum in which they can share their opinions if they wanted to.”

An open forum for mental health conversations is one of the core pillars of the Jan. 28 event. In addition to Rothery speaking about his own campaign, students will be given the opportunity to speak about their own experiences. In the past, students have expressed themselves through speeches, poetry and musical performances.

Supporting the Bell Let's Talk event at MRU was initiated by the Digital Pathways team, which was established in fall 2014 to promote mental health awareness and lessen stigma around mental illness across campus. The team is entirely student driven and helps students connect with various campus resources to improve mental health.

The Wall of Awesome has been a popular attraction at past mental health events, and allows students to write down their worries, stick them to the wall and walk away from their problems.
— Photo by, Brett Luft

Wall of Awesome

The popular Wall of Awesome will return for the event, allowing students to anonymously write their worries on the wall and walk away from their problems.

Twitter ops

Peer Health Educators and student volunteers will be set up and tweeting on Main Street encouraging MRU students to get involved. Students and faculty are asked to use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on Twitter throughout the day, as Bell will donate $0.05 for every tweet that uses the hashtag.

Circle of Conversation

A new addition to this event is the Circle of Conversation, which will allow students to sit down with counsellors and student volunteers and take part in a face-to-face conversation about the resources offered at Wellness Services.

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Two in three individuals suffer in silence fearing judgment and rejection.

Let’s talk about it — the more mental health issues are part of the conversation at Mount Royal the more we can decrease the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Use the hashtag #mruLetsTalk all year to talk about university life and mental health.

Jan. 26, 2015 — Mount Royal University journalism student, Brett Luft