Canadian students making every action count for campus mental health as partners in the 2020 Bell Let's Talk Day campaign

MONTRÉAL - Students at 227 Canadian universities and colleges will be taking action to create positive change in mental health as part of the 10th anniversary Bell Let's Talk Day on January 29. More than 500 campus mental health events are being planned around this year's Bell Let's Talk campaign theme, Mental Health: Every Action Counts.

"This year's post-secondary mental health campaign will reach more than 1.7 million students on campuses across the country," said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let's Talk. "As we celebrate our 10th annual Bell Let's Talk Day, we congratulate students for their leadership in taking action to build psychologically safe and healthy campus environments."

Most students enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions are age 24 or under, the demographic most susceptible to developing mental health issues: 75% of people with a mental health disorder were first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24.

The Bell Let's Talk post-secondary campaign grew out of a student-athlete initiative at 11 Atlantic Canada universities in 2016. Now reaching students at universities and colleges in every province and territory, the campaign has expanded to include varsity and collegiate athletic games and a wide range of events from information kiosks to open houses and conferences.

"A few years ago, my basketball coach asked the team if we would be open to wearing Bell Let's Talk toques around campus to help end the stigma around mental illness," said Sascha Kappos, a student-athlete at Dalhousie University. "We didn't know then the positive impact this kind of simple action would have. Today, students are more aware of support services, more open to having discussions about mental health and I would say overall more compassionate about the issue. I'm proud to have been one of the first to wear the toque!"

"We're proud to raise the Bell Let's Talk flag on January 29 to highlight our ongoing commitment to student mental health and well-being," said Dr. Wally Rude, Registrar and Dean of Enrolment Services at Yukon College. "Last year, students participated in Bell Let's Talk by sharing their strategies for self-care. This year, students are co-leading all of our event planning."

"Throughout Québec, universities and colleges are working to promote mental health and raise awareness in their communities," said Éric Doré, Director of Student Services at Polytechnique Montréal and new President of the Regroupement des directions universitaires des services aux étudiants du Québec. "The Bell Let's Talk initiative offers us the opportunity to engage with students, highlight the resources available on campus and foster a stigma-free culture."

"Having struggled with depression throughout my youth and young adult life, I know how important it is to speak openly and honestly about mental health issues," said University of British Columbia President, Santa Ono. "I want students who are struggling to know there is nothing to be ashamed of and that things can get better with appropriate support and counseling. Thanks to programs like Bell Let's Talk, we can now have an open and honest dialogue about mental health."

"We're planning events hosted by different departments on campus, including speakers with lived experience discussing the challenges they've faced," said Jacqueline Anderson, Associate Director of Wellness and Development at Humber College. "The Bell Let's Talk campaign has become a collaboration by faculty, administration and students to create a mental health wellness circle of support, dialogue and acceptance."

National post-secondary mental health standard
Bell Let's Talk and The Rossy Foundation are funding the development of a national standard for post-secondary student mental health to establish best practices at Canadian campuses. Work on the standard is being led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

"I'm proud to be working with university and college communities to help develop a national standard to support student mental health," said Jennifer Hamilton, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS). "The standard will continue the positive momentum in mental health that we're seeing on campuses across the country."