Waterloo athletes share their thoughts on the importance of mental health on campus

Yesterday marked an impressive demonstration by not only our nation but also our own student body here at the University of Waterloo. Countless students rallied together in support of a cause that deserved our utmost attention, as mental illness affects one out of every five Canadians in their lifetime. The #BellLetsTalk campaign is remarkable in the way that it spreads awareness and strives to create a unified space based on understanding and respect. The campaign encourages people to feel comfortable voicing their experiences with mental health and breaking down the associated stigma. The overwhelming support that was demonstrated by numerous student groups and clubs on campus, as well as by individuals, was not only heart-warming but also extremely inspirational.

I decided I wanted to dig a little deeper into what specific initiatives were being taken by the students of Waterloo to demonstrate support for the campaign. In my pursuit to find out more about the #BellLetsTalk campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with two individuals who are part of our varsity teams here at the University of Waterloo.


Captain of the girl’s hockey team, Siobhan Hewitt-Kenda, is currently in her fifth and final year of her Kinesiology studies and it is safe to say that Siobhan knows a thing or two about feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable.  When asked how she would define success, Siobhan valiantly stated that “success cannot be measured through anything else but an individual’s personal happiness, contentment with how they feel and what they achieve.” She went on to outline how the Bell campaign has given her a platform to remind her team of how important it is to openly talk about mental health and about the resources that are available to them on campus.

Another instrumental way that the athletes of the Waterloo community aided the promotion of the #BellLetsTalk campaign was by sporting blue toques around campus. Siobhan said that individuals on campus would come up to her asking why there were so many of these blue toques in circulation, and she was more than happy to explain to them their association with the #BellLetsTalk campaign and their intention to help spread the message.

I was also able to obtain some insight from Jon Ravenhorst. Jon is also in his fifth year and plays as point guard for the varsity boys’ basketball team. Jon took the time to outline the power that social media has in the spread of mental health awareness, especially on campus. He believes that through the circulation of the hash tag and the conversation it starts, we are able to spark tangible change in our community. On a more personal level, as a sociology major he understands very deeply “the serious harm that stigma can have on a persons ability to feel comfortable and normal among other people. ” He believes that by normalizing the conversation around mental health  the school is making waves towards breaking down the walls that many individuals still hold up around mental health. 


It is important to understand that this issue is one that is relevant year round. The community at Waterloo has blown me away with their enthusiasm and compassion regarding mental health wellness. I hope to see this initiative continue to spread as we all come together to end the stigma around mental illness.

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