Queen’s TALKS peer support

Students stand up against fear and stigma of mental health through discussion and raising awareness of resources on campus

Christopher Walasek speaking about mental health resources on campus last night.
Christopher Walasek speaking about mental health resources on campus last night.
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Last night at the Queen’s TALKS rally, Caeleb Goff shared her journey with mental illness for the first time in public.

The gathering, which took place at Common Ground, was the main event of the second annual Queen’s TALKS week run by the Peer Support Centre.

The campaign, which began on Monday, will mark its close today.

Last night, Goff spoke about living with generalized anxiety disorder and depression in front of an audience of more than 50 students. Students Lauren Hawthorne, Stacey Lambert, Christopher Walasek and Breanna McCreary also spoke about their experiences at the event.

“It was years before I mentioned anything and I think that with the dialogue kind of opening up and with there being less stigma out there now, people would be more likely to get help a lot earlier on than I did,” Goff, ArtSci ’15, said.

Talking about personal matters in a public situation can be intimidating, she said.

“It’s hard to know how people are going to interpret [it],” Goff said.

“Stigma for mental illness is still out there, and I don’t really want people to think that the only thing there is about me is the fact that I have a mental illness.”

Goff said that she worries what people will think of her.

“My main fear tonight would be that people … [will] judge me based on that,” she said before the talk.

“[We are talking] about reducing stigma but then it’s still scary because you would worry that people would still stigmatize you.”

Sebastian Gorlewski, the director of the Peer Support Centre, organized the week.

He said the campaign’s purpose is to erase fear associated with mental health stigma.

Booths were set up around campus with Peer Support Centre volunteers promoting the TALKS acronym and peer support on campus.

“TALKS is an acronym for: Tell them you care; Ask gently; Listen attentively; Know your resources and Stay in touch,” Gorlewski, ArtSci ’14, said.

More than 200 students visited the booths and had their picture taken while holding a whiteboard displaying a personal phrase regarding peer support.

“[The participants] get to publicly show via social media that they support a cause that they believe in,” he said.

In addition to the rally, the week featured a de-stressor event on Wednesday night at the Red Room in Kingston Hall. Approximately 20-30 students attended.

The event featured the movie Toy Story and offered students an opportunity to relax.

“The goal of it was to sort of chill out. It has been a pretty crazy month … a lot of people had midterms and stuff, sometimes we need to tone it down,” he said.

Research shows that the most effective way of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health is through direct contact education, such as public speaking events, he said.

Anjali Ravi, one of the Peer Support Centre’s two marketing coordinators, helped organize the Queen’s TALKS poster campaign that features pictures of diverse groups of students.

“[The poster campaign] really helps us to reach out to a whole variety of students who may not have known what Queen’s TALKS was before,” Ravi, ArtSci ’14, said.

“The goal with it is to have so many recognizable faces in the Queen’s community talking about peer support.”

The events held during the week aimed to emphasize that students don’t have to be an experts to help a friend with mental health issues, Ravi said.

“Anybody can do anything for someone else, even without the professional capacity,” she said.

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