Bell Let’s Talk Student initiatives for mental health at UW

Photo of PASS co-founder, Erik Van Ees. Every time it is shared on HoUW’s page, HoUW and PASS will donate five cents to Lutherwood and KW Rehabilitation, respectively. Photo courtesy Humans of UWaterloo.

Bell Let’s Talk day, a nationwide annual event designed to break the silence and support mental health all across Canada, for the seventh year in a row on Jan. 25.

Every time anyone talks, texts, and joins in on social media on Jan. 25, Bell will donate five cents to mental health initiatives.

Bell’s initiative has raised $6.3 million and sent 126 million messages during Let’s Talk Day 2016, a new record.

Famous campaign ambassadors  include celebrities such as Kevin Breel, Clara Hughes, Étienne Boulay, Howie Mandel, Marie-Soleil Dion, Mary Walsh, Michael Landsberg, Michel Mpambara, Serena Ryder, and Stefie Shock.

UW students have taken initiatives to raise awareness for mental health on campus — even when Bell Let’s Talk Day ends, the conversation between Waterloo students will not be.

Erik Van Ees, co-founder of PASS, a UW startup that makes mental health first aid kits, said every time someone supports us through liking, sharing, or commenting, “we will support other mental health initiatives around Waterloo.”

“This year we’re posting stress tips on Twitter, to help students with stress and anxiety,” said Van Ees. “We will also be interviewing people around campus over video around Waterloo and share their stress story.”

Humans of UW (HoUW) is also expanding their campaign from last year, when they “[donated] five cents to mental health initiatives every time [their] post on Humans of UW [was] shared,” Mounir El-Choueiri, co-manager, said.

Van Ees says their goal is “to make an actual difference.,” and explained “The campaign is great, and the awareness is great, but we need to do more,” he said. “It’s not enough to read about it, we have to take care of our own mental health.”

If mental health was as easy to talk about as physical health, and people were taking care of it the same way,  Van Ees would be satisfied.

“Aladdin [Sidahmed], the previous co-founder of PASS, messaged [HoUW] and was interested in featuring his initiatives on mental health, and so his story was posted to make him relatable to everyone. This resulted in us raising money for the initiative.”

According to El-Choueiri, their post shared 2,000 times last year, and they hope to double that number through social media awareness.

Be sure to check out Humans of UWaterloo’s Facebook page to join in on the mental health intiative.