LIDIA LIKHODI/THE VARSITY

Coinciding with the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, UTM’s Health and Counselling Centre hosted Let’s Talk UTM Day on January 31, a campus initiative to open the conversation around mental health.

#BellLetsTalk is a national social media campaign run by Bell Canada to encourage discussion of mental health issues. Let’s Talk UTM is the first campus-wide initiative of its kind at U of T; the University of St. Michael’s College also hosted a Bell Let’s Talk event on January 31.

The Let’s Talk UTM event featured a mental health resource fair and multimedia exhibits promoting open dialogue around mental health. The event also offered free coffee, self-care bags, and Bell Let’s Talk toques.

Designed for accessibility, the event was stationed in the CCT atrium from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and attracted a steady stream of students all day.

Let’s Talk UTM was organized with the help of student wellness ambassadors, who were there to provide information on mental health resources, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, Jack.org, the Centre for International Experience, Career Centre, and Accessibility Services. A mental health nurse, dietician, and counselor from the Health and Counselling Centre were also present to speak to students.

Organizer and UTM health education coordinator Ravi Gabble told The Varsity that these experts were at the event because it was important to adopt a holistic approach to talking about mental health, saying that it “intersects with all these different areas.”

“They recognize that, so they’re out here to provide information to students about the different services and resources available to students on campus,” said Gabble.

At the core of the event was a photo exhibit called The Stories of Resiliency, which served to showcase student, staff, faculty, and alumni participants’ stories of overcoming mental illness.

According to Gabble, “The biggest message we want people to take away is that you’re not alone, that everybody has mental health struggles. It’s supposed to be inspirational and really emphasizes resiliency as a skill.”

“We realize there’s a stigma to mental health,” organizer and wellness ambassador Ogogho Ajari told The Varsity. “Essentially with this campaign we open that ground for conversation, make it easy for someone to talk about what they’re going through.”

While organizers intended to leverage the now nationally recognized day for mental health, they expressed hopes that the conversation will continue long-term.

“We always saw this as a year-long thing,” said Gabble. “We’re going to continue to populate the Stories of Resiliency photos throughout the year and share them over social media and then probably build up again towards 2019.”

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