TRURO, N.S. – Kelsey Taylor used to suffer in silence when her anxiety levels would overtake her – until she learned to talk about it.
“When I was younger I would keep it to myself because I didn’t understand it that well,” said Taylor, 20, a Greenfield resident attending University of New Brunswick (UNB).
In about her first year of high school, however, Taylor said she finally began to confide her emotions with trusted friends. Sometimes that meant just having someone sit quietly with her for a few moments, or listen as she shared her feelings.
“It helped,” she said. “At first, it was a little embarrassing and I felt bad for taking up their time. But after awhile of just talking to them I felt like I could really trust them and I could go to them whenever I felt like I needed to talk to somebody. And it’s just a nice feeling. It’s comforting.”
Now, Taylor is encouraging others to help spread the message – talking helps – to those who suffer from some form of mental illness.
“Just knowing there was somebody there I could text and do that, it helped me a lot. It made the anxiety a little bit easier to deal with.”
As a member of UNB’s varsity women’s swim team, Taylor is one of more than 20,000 student-athletes from across the country participating in the Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, an initiative designed to generate campus conversation about mental health issues, the impact of mental illness and how to fight the stigma that keeps too many from seeking help.
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“I think it’s really important,” she said of the Let’s Talk campaign.
And while she believes society is becoming more educated about mental illness, she wishes more people could view issues of the brain in the same way they accept physical ailments and disease.
“I think that there is less of a stigma now that people are starting to talk about it and become aware of it. As long as they just educate themselves and listen to the person,” she said. “If you can find somebody to talk to and know that they have your back and are willing to help you through anything, it just takes so much load off, because you don’t feel like you are alone in it.”
Ben Gorringe, 19, of Truro is also a student at UNB and a member of the varsity men’s soccer team.
As one who has close friends and teammates who suffer from some form of mental illness, he said the enthusiasm generated by campus athletes for the Let’s Talk campaign has been encouraging.
“It’s just so important to try to team up together, especially student athletes,” he said, because of the popularity of varsity sports among the younger generation.
“And we want that knowledge and interest in ending mental health stigma and all that.”
As for dealing with anyone who has a mental illness, Gorringe said any act of simple kindness can make “a world of difference.
“Mental illness isn’t noticeable and you don’t know what someone is dealing with on a daily basis,” he said.
Let’s Talk campaign facts
On Wednesday, Bell will donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for each of the following interactions, at no extra charge to participants:
• Every text message, mobile and long distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers;
• Twitter: Every tweet (including non Bell customers) using #BellLetsTalk;
• Facebook: Every view of the Bell Let's Talk Day video at Facebook.com/BellLetsTalk
• Instagram: Every post using #BellLetsTalk
• Snapchat: Every use of the Bell Let's Talk Snapchat geofilter.
• Last year the campaign generated 125.9 million messages of support, growing Bell's funding for Canadian mental health by $6,295,764.75.
• #BellLetsTalk was the #1 Twitter hashtag in Canada for all of 2016, and the most used in the world on Bell Let's Talk Day 2016.
With its original anchor donation of $50 million and the results of the first six Bell Let's Talk Days, Bell's total commitment to mental health now stands at $79,919,178.55, and is expected to surpass $100 million in 2020. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.