“Shine a Light on Mental Health” event raises awareness about campus resources and shares stories of struggle

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle
Graphic via UVic Confessions and Crushes on Facebook

On October 30, student leaders from the Mental Health Initiative partnered with UVic Confessions and Crushes — an anonymous Facebook page run by UVic students —  to put on a scavenger hunt aiming to increase awareness of mental health resources on campus and engage students with stories of mental health. 

This scavenger hunt was based on four campus resources, the Centre for Accessible Learning, Counselling Services, the Peer Support Center, and Multifaith Services. At these locations, participants could read anonymous submissions about other student’s battles with mental health, with the hope of destigmatizing conversations around mental health and raising awareness that they are not alone in their struggles. 

The Martlet interviewed three students from the Mental Health Initiative — Leah de Zeeuw, Chris Deggan, and Cassidy Smith — and the head moderator of UVic Confessions and Crushes who goes by the pseudonym “AssPirate,” for their takes on the event.

Can you give me a quick rundown of the event, and what UVic Confessions & Crushes does?

Chris: [As members of the Mental Health Initiative,] we’re here to really put on events and raise awareness for mental health, and provide resources, and help wherever we can. We collaborated with several of the resources around campus like the Peer Support Centre, the Centre for Accessible Learning, Counselling Services, and the Multifaith Services. We wanted people to get familiar with the places and have people know where they are. It’s like this fun little excuse and there’s a prize incentive, and then you can go … “You know what, I can go in there now because it’s familiar, I know it,” so it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into, like, a wolves den or something.

AssPirate: UVic Confessions & Crushes started about three years ago and at the beginning of the page, we noticed a lot of the confessions that we were receiving were people sort of crying out for help about their mental state and just all the stress of school and just generally people being in a dark place. We wanted to find a way to respond to that that was healthy and wasn’t just overwhelming the page with all of those posts and making the page even more of a dark place. Our first initiative was starting this system through our confessions form where we have people submit their emails if they’re in a dark place and want to get some help, and we just send them a bunch of resources and say, like, we hope this helps and since that initiative has started we’ve been looking for more ways to branch out into the community. 

What made you want to partner with each other to create this event?

AP: As of last year, we have started doing more and more community outreach stuff like this so this was like a good next step for us as a page. We want to continue our focus on mental health and to continue to be a page that … is still actively involved in the community and responds to the needs of students that we see come up on the page.  This event was a really great step for us in the direction of continuing our focus on mental health.

What kinds of reactions or feedback did you receive while the event was happening from students?

Chris: This one girl had completed all four of them, and she came up afterwards talking about how she had just done really poorly on a midterm and she was saying she wasn’t really in a great headspace, and she was really thankful that we just got her to take a walk to clear her head, and that she didn’t know that half of these resources existed. Just hearing that, I know tangibly we’ve helped at least one person. 

Cassidy: I also volunteer with the Peer Support Centre and I was there for my shift during the day when this event was going on and there were a lot of people coming by to pick up their stickers who were also really engaging with the stories and taking a minute to stop and read, and listen, and just hear somebody else’s experience on campus. That was really valuable to see that the separate parts kind of came together and that people were not only engaging and getting to know the resources and getting their foot in the door but also getting to know their fellow students and getting to hear other peoples’ experiences.

AP: We did a whole separate section of the page saying this is for the “Shine a Light” event, and the engagement that we received with those stories and through the direct messages that I received on the page were just so heartwarming. Each one of those posts has so many likes, so many “heart” reactions, and people clearly took the time to read them and react to them and the engagement was just great, so I was really happy to see that on our side of things as well.

What do you hope students gained from this event?

Leah: Just that they’re comfortable knowing where these resources are on campus, that other people have the same struggles they’re going through … and it’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to reach out for help.

AP: Reading all of these stories and sorting through them, what really stood out to me that I thought was so incredible was that in so many of these stories it was like they were sharing that they had been through this hard time but that things did get better, and I thought that was a really cool take away, especially for anyone coming to our page to read those stories, you’re not going through the mental health thing alone, there are so many people like you going through this and it does get better. 

Do you plan on working together for mental health related events in the future?

Leah: Yeah, we’d love to partner with [UVic Confessions & Crushes] because last year we did a visual statement in the quad and it would be awesome, I think, to have … personal stories as a part of the visual statement.