Dalhousie University’s chapter of jack.org is asking Dal athletes to help raise awareness for mental health for this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, happening Jan. 31.
Jack.org is a youth organization aimed towards erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness. They offer a number of initiatives and programs to help reach this goal, designed with the input of young people.
For Bell Let’s Talk Day, Ally Geist, social media coordinator and public speaker for jack.org says “we’re planning on being at a couple of sports games, specifically raising awareness for different resources around Halifax.”
They’re also participating in the “blue lace campaign,” which a former jack.org president started in Guysborough. “We’re hoping to provide the athletes with blue laces to start a conversation around mental health at these games and especially around Bell Let’s Talk Day,” she said.
Bell launched their Bell Let’s Talk initiative in 2010.
Countless celebrities and everyday people alike have since endorsed it.
Among them is Olympian cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes, a prominent advocate for mental health awareness.
Along with all the donations that pour in, Bell itself donates 5¢ for every text message sent by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS Canada customers on the day. In 2017, the Let’s Talk initiative raised $6.5 million during the Let’s Talk day. Their website breaks down where the money raised by the Bell Let’s Talk Day goes each year.
Geist would like to see more participation in jack.org’s events this year.
“This is the second year our chapter is really up and running. Last year we tried to do the blue lace campaign but, not very many people knew who we were or what we were doing,” she said. “So, we’re hoping round two is better.”
“We are really just hoping to get students talking about mental health and even trying to think about what mental health is,” said Geist. “A lot of people equate mental health with mental illness, which is not the same thing.”
She says the blue lace campaign is specifically focused on athlete mental health. “I feel like in sports it’s so easy to have a hustle-over-health kind of attitude.” She hopes that starting conversations about mental health in a sports setting will help change this attitude.
Jack.org is also planning several other events over the semester. In the past, they’ve done “stigma smash” events, where students have the opportunity to write stigmatizing language on a plate and throw the plate into a fireplace. A mosaic is made with all the pieces at the end of the event. Other events include an “eat your words” event, where students decorate cupcakes with language they wish to stop using, and eat them.
Geist hopes that these types of events will help attract more students: “We’re trying to branch out a little bit and do more.”
Last semester was largely dedicated to promoting the jack.org chapter to get students familiar with the organization.
Geist believes the stigma around mental health is changing, “The optimist in me thinks it has improved in the last few years, in the way people are thinking about mental health and talking about it and even their willingness to seek out support for themselves.”
There’s still a long way to go.
“The language that people use every day is not quite there yet, but I’ve been seeing the resources at Dal expand, and more awareness shows up around them,” she said.
In the future, Geist would like to see mental health services become accessible to anyone who might need them, as well as an increase in peer support.
If students are interested in getting involved with jack.org, they can visit jack.org Dal’s Facebook page.
Geist also offered some advice on how to address mental health in our every day lives:
“Even just being aware of the language we are using. I think a huge thing, especially lately, is curating your social media feeds, so like not following accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and being conscious about the media you are consuming because that can take a toll on your mental health as well.”