Bell Let’s Talk encourages people to talk about mental health. Since 2010, Let’s Talk has raised almost $100 million, which goes to research grants, mental-health facilities and community programs. As someone who has felt the pressures of sport, I’m happy to see this program succeed.
A portion of this money is raised through social-media posts, so not only is awareness raised, but for every post made with #BellLetsTalk, 5 cents is donated to the campaign. On Jan. 25, Bell will partner with student athletes at the University of Saskatchewan to promote the campaign and improve student mental-health awareness on campus. Students will be on campus with booths set up encouraging people to share their struggles with mental health.
Amber Fuentealba, student support co-ordinator for the College of Kinesiology and the Huskies, is excited about this partnership and its goals.
“Mental health can be very isolating — you can feel like no one gets you. I hear a lot of students say, ‘I don’t really do this’ or ‘I’m not usually like this,’ and it’s important to recognize that everyone has periods of stress and feeling down,” Fuentealba said. “That’s why I like Bell Let’s Talk Day so much. It shows us that we all have these issues.”
Bell Let’s Talk Day takes place on Jan. 30 annually. When asked why Bell Let’s Talk would target student athletes specifically, Fuentealba discusses the extra challenges they face.
“University can be overwhelming. You have higher expectations: you expect to take five classes, get certain grades, and it gets more challenging as you get into higher years,” Fuentealba said. “When you’re a student athlete, you have to balance that and the extra pressure of being a successful athlete.”
Fuentealba adds that males tend to struggle with sharing their concerns around their mental health and continually meeting the high expectations of others.
“Male athletes especially tend to keep to themselves, but it’s important to show [them] that you don’t have to. But you’re also a mentor, and people look up to you. You have higher expectations placed on you and have higher stress,” Fuentealba said.
As the person in charge of mental health, wellness and sport-life-balance support for the College of Kinesiology, Fuentealba discusses how she thinks the university could improve its support of students.
“I think the university is moving in the right direction with their focus on student wellness, and I hope it continues. I think it would be cool to see my job in other colleges,” Fuentealba said. “If you could go see an academic advisor and then stop in next door to your college counsellor, I think it would encourage a better, well-rounded support for students. Everybody should connect with somebody, and I think that would make it easier.”
As a high-school-student athlete, my time was stretched very thin, and it began to affect my performance. In younger years, I played competitive ringette, and I would train around six times a week. By the time I got to grade 11, however, I had multiple part-time jobs, a more rigorous academic program, and was still trying to play at the competitive level.
Eventually, that stress affected my athletic performance, and I ended up playing in a rec league instead. If I’d had the proper support to talk about and manage my stress, I could have performed better in everything I was doing simply because my mindset going in would have been more stable.
Although Bell Let’s Talk has had commercials featured on TV, they will be doing awareness campaigns and talking to people at the U of S to have more of a positive impact in the campus community. Only good can come from providing students and faculty with resources and education on mental health, and targeting university students ensures that this positive attitude will be brought into the workforce and society at large in the near future.
Graphic: Mỹ Anh Phan