Campus leads #LetsTalk conversation

Western talked – and listened – in record numbers on social media during Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 30. But the 2,600 tweets and retweets from a variety of university-affiliated accounts represented just a fraction of the deeper discussions that took place.

“There’s a lot of value in having a day when the entire campus and community come together to talk about mental health and to think about ways in which we as members of campus and as members of the broader community can support each other,” said Jennie Massey, Associate Vice-President (Student Experience).

Posts on Twitter, Facebook and a story series in Western News drew almost 370,000 page views and impressions.

During the day, representative of Western’s Health and Wellness community – including from Student Experience, RezLife, Wellness Education Centre, Health Services, Student Success Centre, Indigenous Services and Peer Support – took over the @WesternU Twitter account to answer questions and comments from the community.

One particularly meaningful conversation included a discussion of enhanced mental-health supports and the university’s new ‘responsive care model,’ introduced in September.

The model has virtually eliminated the months-long waiting lists that had evolved for counselling services. In its place is a process in which students looking for mental-health support can receive help usually within a week.

“The number of people from a variety of different offices that were involved really reinforces that all parts of campus are committed to helping students thrive,” Massey said.

Across campus, students, student leaders, athletes, faculty and staff were all making their voices heard. Some sported Bell Let’s Talk toques; others wrote messages on a speech-bubble wall in the University Community Centre; and still others shared stories publicly about how they cope with feelings of failure, anxiety or depression.

Every department, faculty and school participated in some way.

“The number of people from a variety of different offices involved really reinforces that all parts of campus are committed to helping students thrive,” Massey said.

Western varsity squads went to extreme lengths to reinforce the idea that support for mental wellness is a team sport.

Ten Western Rowing first-year athletes set a new world record for continuously rowing one million metres on a single erg machine. They kept the flywheel in motion for 62 hours, 27 minutes, 7 seconds, topping the previous record by more than three hours. Half the money the team raised will go towards the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; half will support the team’s upcoming regatta in Philadelphia.

At Alumni Hall, the men’s and women’s basketball teams filled the stands during a special #BellLetsTalk-themed doubleheader against Wilfrid Laurier University.

Across the country, Canadians made 145,442,699 social media interactions with #BellLetsTalk which, at 5 cents per interaction, raised more than $7.2 million for mental-health initiatives, including support for crisis and distress lines and mental-health programs for children and youth.