#BellLetsTalk and sing at Algonquin College
Algonquin College joined the #BellLetsTalk movement on Jan. 31 with a special event that welcomed Ottawa musician Alanna Sterling who performed a rousing musical set interspersed with discussions about her own mental health challenges and how music has helped her to heal.
#BellLetsTalk, or in this case, sing.
On Jan. 31, Bell launched their annual Bell Let’s Talk Day campaign to drive awareness and positive action in support of mental health.
For that entire day, Canadians and people around the world were invited to talk, text, engage in social media or take part in Bell Let’s Talk events to fight the stigma around mental illness while driving Bell's donations in support of mental health.
Here in Pembroke, Algonquin College's Pembroke Waterfront Campus participated in Bell Let’s Tall Day by organizing a few initiatives to help promote positive mental health for its students and employees.
From 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Jan. 31, the college welcomed Ottawa musician Alanna Sterling who performed a rousing musical set interspersed with personal discussions about her own mental health challenges.
“We invited Alanna Sterling because she focuses her art and her music on raising awareness about mental health and mental health related issues,” said Nicole Lewis, mental health counsellor at Algonquin College. “We wanted someone that the students could relate to and who could hopefully get students engaged and interested in the conversation.”
Upon stepping up to the mic, Sterling began with an emotional introduction in which she expressed that after performing hundreds of gigs throughout her musical career, she’s never had stage-fright until this very moment.
Sterling expressed that while performing music comes easy to her, having to bare her heart and soul by talking about her own mental health struggles with anxiety and depression is the hardest thing she’s ever done.
“I’ve performed hundreds and hundreds of gigs and I’ve never had stage fright at any of those gigs. But today, to talk about my own mental health and to be put in that kind of a spotlight, it puts a whole new spin on everything,” said Sterling. “’Today is not just a performance and not just a rock concert, it's a lot more than that.”
After opening up about her challenges of dealing with an alcoholic father and being placed in the foster care system among other painful moments, Sterling expressed that she was able to channel her pain and sadness through music and other forms of art which provided her with a healthy release and path towards healing.
“I have used music so long to help me get through my own mental health issues and I find that when others hear my music they can connect to it and that brings them some sort of healing to help them get through their struggles as well,” said Sterling. “Ultimately, I think music is the most powerful tool that we can use to work through mental health issues as it helps to explain them in a way where people can actually listen and feel the meaning of something without having to use words.”
Along with Sterling’s moving talk and musical performance, the college had an information and photo booth where staff and students could take a photo with a #BellLetsTalk speech bubble and share it on social media to promote the campaign.
Following Bell Let's Talk Day, the discussion will continue as Lewis expressed that the college engages in positive mental health initiatives all year long.
“Mental illness affects one in five people, but we see a little bit higher prevalence of that in the student population of which I am serving. So rather than one in five, as many as one in three students experience challenges based on my numbers and our student population at Algonquin College,” said Lewis. “Between 15 and 24 years of age is the prime time when people begin experiencing mental health challenges and are most likely to be diagnosed. So it's really important that we talk about it and reduce the stigma to give people the opportunity to get the support they need.”
Among those initiatives, the college has a special purple couch which moves around building and is intended to raise awareness about mental illness, by providing information and a safe place for people to sit down and talk about mental health.
Over the past four years, the college has delivered mental health first aid training to more than 400 people in Renfrew County. The MHFA course was designed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is a 12 hour course intended for front line workers in all sectors of the workforce.
To learn five simple ways to help end mental health stigma, visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk