Western Mind, the Magazine for your Mental Health

Prachi Patell & Gunvit Bhatia

Age: 20

Program: Accounting and Marketing, respectively

Hometown: Toronto, Vancouver

What is Western Mind? How did you guys decide to start it?

Gunvit: So basically, what Prachi and I realized that there’s a lot of mental health problems obviously as a student; you go through that, everyone goes through that. What we thought was that the material that was available was very depressing. It couldn’t be understood by younger people like us. So that’s how Western Mind came about--we wanted to bring all the issues out, but not in a depressing way, in a more relatable way. We wanted to tell people, yes everybody goes through it, and it’s not as big of a deal. It’s not as big of a black cloud. Everybody can get through it, and that’s why we’re providing a medium that’s more fun, and more relatable. It’s more like a magazine that you would probably pick up off a stand; it’s not just going to include articles about mental health. It’s going to be more interactive.

Prachi: We definitely want to make it as relatable as possible. At the end of the day, when you go pick up a pamphlet or when you see advertisements [for mental health], it’s great that there is so much attention being put on mental health,  it’s great that there is such a positive light on the normalcy of it, and that everyone goes through it. But at the end of the day, [media] is very gloomy, like it’s the end of the world, and it isn’t. We really want to shed light that it happens to everyone; we want to open up a discussion where everyone is comfortable, and when people read the magazine, they’ll just feel good about themselves and feel like there are other people out there.

Is it a magazine? Is it a website? Both?

Prachi: Right now, in order to have a published magazine we [need] sponsors, so for now it’ll just be an online magazine.

What are you looking for in your submissions?

Prachi: For the submissions, we already have a team set up, so we’re still working on the logistics. We’re hoping to officially release the website by the end of September, so we have content writers.  We also a community page, and we would love for people to submit and open the door for everyone to create a discussion.

Gunvit: If you are passionate, not just about mental health but also about other things that relate to it, or you can even submit anonymously. If you have gone through it and overcame it, we would love to have real life stories come in--that’s the best part about a magazine, having each other help each other if they’ve gone through something.

How big is your team?

Prachi: We have a team of seven, but we just started so that’s pretty big! We’re hoping to publish once a month, because we want to focus on the content. We want to make sure the content is quality, and well-researched. We would love to eventually publish biweekly.

How did you decide to go for a writing/magazine platform?

Gunvit: My parents used to travel a lot, so my mom would always give me a magazine to distract me. Whatever I have learned--even from Cosmo--it’s from reading. Most of the information I have gotten in my life is from reading, so that’s why I thought it would be a good medium.

What was the last/best place you have travelled to?

Prachi: Over Christmas break, I went to India. It was definitely a culture shock for me;  obviously there are a lot of differences between Indian society and Canadian society, and that was interesting to adjust to and learn from. It’s such a beautiful country, but it’s overshadowed by negativity. It’s an amazing country with beautiful people, so I loved that trip and I learned a lot from it.

Gunvit: I went to Switzerland on my own, on my way to India. I stayed there for 4 days, and it was my own thing. It’s a very peaceful place.

What’s your main goal this year for the magazine?

Gunvit: I think we’re not doing it for our own benefit. We’re doing it for others. My goal is to get as many people touched as possible, and get the word going. We want to get the counselors involved and get it in the counseling offices.

Prachi: We definitely want to make an impact in people’s lives. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a space where people are impacted positively, where they can move forward and feel good, and let them know that it does it get better at the end of the day.

Gunvit: My friend went through depression and she was so ashamed even just to go to the counselor’s office; even the counselors are not able to talk it through, and I wish I could go with her and tell the counselor the things she is going through, because she will not tell an adult. But the magazine is all young people, it’s written by young people for young people, and it’s not going to be depressing. We’re going to make sure it’s fun, make sure it’s colorful. If you’re in a negative place, you don’t want to open a pamphlet that’s already negative, with pictures of people crying--we always see that. I’ve never seen a pamphlet that’s uplifting. It’s never a rainbow--why is there not a rainbow on the pamphlet? I want to see rainbows.

Prachi: I suffered from anxiety, and it took me a long time to switch programs. I am trying to work on it, and it did affect my school. My program wasn’t making me happy. I would have panic attacks, and so I feel like if there was an outlet for me to read and relate to something, I think it would have made me realize my program wasn’t for me and I would have switched earlier.

Gunvit: And there’s nothing wrong with that, you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. A lot of people switch majors all the time, that’s what university is for. But nobody tells these stories! If she had talked to my roommate, then maybe she wouldn’t have this anxiety--just to get these two people together and having this conversation. It’s so frustrating to not have a place!

Prachi: I started talking to my friends about wanting to switch, and it started these conversations. These conversations aren’t taking place, and we want to start them to make sure everyone is leading the best life they can and are not having any regrets. The panic attacks I would have before exams affected me so much.

Do you have specific concerns about mental health at Western?

Gunvit: I really like the initiative for Shinearama and One Love, but I really feel that it dies down after the beginning of the year. It’s like 100 to 0 real quick. People just don’t talk about it and people are so ashamed. If I tell someone I have anxiety, people don’t know what that means, they just throw that word around. Anxiety is such a big deal here, and nobody talks about it. I never see sophs having mid-year conversations. In the beginning, the rallies are amazing, you feel like everyone supports you, and you feel like you shouldn’t be ashamed, but it just stops right after that.

Prachi: I love the initiatives that do take place, and I love that people are starting the conversation, and that it’s becoming more talked about.

Check out Western Mind online at westernmind.ca!