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Talking about Mental Health with Speakeasy Coordinator Kyra Borland-Walker

Kyra Borland-Walker, an undergraduate student at UBC, is the Speakeasy Coordinator for the AMS Student Society of UBC in Vancouver. Kyra first got involved with Speakeasy on her first day on campus in her first year of university. “I saw the Speakeasy booth on Imagine Day and felt immediately that the opportunity was calling my name,” Kyra says. “Immediately upon going home I sat down and wrote my application… I was looking for somewhere to belong on campus and my gut told me this was my shot.

Kyra was drawn to Speakeasy’s mission, which is to further the well being of all students. She is passionate about wellness and believes that as a community we have a responsibility to promote wellness in one another. “I believe that starting, maintaining, and promoting a conversation around mental health and wellness is one of the best ways that we can achieve this,” Kyra suggests.

For those of us that don’t know much about Speakeasy, Kyra let us in on what it’s all about and how they have been building a supportive, healthy, and resilient community here on campus for the past 45 years. “Speakeasy delivers free, one-on-one, confidential, drop-in peer support with a trained volunteer. This is a one-time service where we empower students to maintain their wellness and connect them with long-term resources.” Kyra’s role within Speakeasy is currently to supervise peer outreach volunteers, team leaders, and to work cooperatively with the assistant coordinator. Speakeasy understands that university is a challenging time and is available to provide a non-judgemental, supportive outlet for students who need help.

Kyra’s work with Speakeasy has not gone unnoticed, in fact she has watched their numbers grow by about 20% every year since she has been involved with the service. “There is nothing that makes me happier or makes me feel more fulfilled,” says Kyra. But for Kyra, Speakeasy is about more than just creating a great service for students in the community. Kyra feels personally involved in this mission of wellness, struggling with her own mental health issues, as many of us do. Seeing others seeking help and raising awareness of these issues while reducing the stigma attached to them, empowers her to take care of herself and motivates her work towards creating a healthier community as a whole. “That is a job that will never be finished and I am excited about what I might be able to contribute to next,” explains Kyra.

So where does Kyra see herself in, say, 5 years? Kyra hopes to finish her PhD in Linguistics and continue to work in First Nations Language and Cultural Realization. “I view this as a really important field and a key component of healthy Canadian communities,” Kyra responds. For most of us, I’m sure it’s hard to imagine Kyra has time to manage all of these accomplishments on top of her work with Speakeasy, but that’s what makes her so incredible!

Kyra refers to Speakeasy as her “rock” here on campus at UBC. She truly believes in their motto and outreach models and hopes to further student wellness in the future, even though it’s hard to say exactly what that looks like due to its ever-changing nature. “The possibilities are truly endless,” Kyra beams. That’s exactly the kind of positive attitude that will take her wherever she aspires to go in the future.

Kyra is an inspiration to not only myself, but all of us here at Her Campus, and hopefully to many of you out there who currently struggle with a wide variety of challenges. Kyra’s personal and professional missions are what makes her a true Campus Celebrity. Kyra is very active and involved in her position with Speakeasy, and being an ambitious student herself, highly recommends Speakeasy for fellow students and faculty members.

It’s people like Kyra and services such as Speakeasy that enable us to recognize mental health as a serious issue and talk about it respectfully and responsibly and end the stigma and discrimination attached to it. Whether you need a supportive ear, or other supportive resources, Speakeasy is a great option. You can find Kyra and the Speakeasy team in The Nest at the desk on the main floor by the peer support room 3121 or check out the AMS page here for more information.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Rebecca is a young aspiring writer who currently studies at UBC. Follow her on instagram @rkenward
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