On January 31st, also known as #BellLetsTalk day, I attended the Friendship Bench unveiling, brought to us by Laurier’s very own Bridging the Gap. This event was extremely powerful and moving, as we were all reminded of the detrimental effects of mental health issues and what happens when someone is afraid to speak up about their struggles. The Friendship Bench was created in memory of a student at Carleton University who suffered from mental health issues in silence, who unfortunately lost the battle to depression in 2014 and took his own life. This bench was created to make sure a conversation never goes unsaid ever again. Laurier’s Bridging the Gap fought and saw through that we had a bright yellow beacon of hope on our campus’ ground. Bridging the Gap is a club here at Laurier that is 100% student-run. This group of inspiring students are actively fighting to make positive changes toward mental health on our campus. One of those changes was the Friendship Bench.
The Friendship Bench is a symbol of optimism and awareness that is placed right outside the Wellness Centre on our Waterloo campus at Laurier. This bench serves as a visual symbol, reminding students that we all face stresses during our time in university and that during those low times it is encouraged to talk about it to ensure that no struggle goes unnoticed. This bench serves as a reminder that a conversation about mental health is always welcomed by students and staff here at Laurier. It encourages students in the midst of the chaos to stop, take a breath, take a seat and have a conversation with someone. Whether you think they need it or not, a simple hello is sometimes treasured and appreciated by someone more than you know.
During the unveiling event, I sat down with Bridging the Gap’s VP of Marketing and Media, Natalia Ortiz. I expressed my gratitude to her and the rest of Bridging the Gap for fighting to grace Laurier with our very own Friendship Bench. She explained the process by stating, “We felt that we wanted to make a big impact within the school and the Friendship Bench is something we talked about for a while. It was the perfect initiative to make Laurier a campus that values mental health and fosters peer support. This symbol to me is more than just a place to sit, but a reminder that the school we chose cares about the wellbeing of their students and that mental health does not get overlooked on this campus, but taken care of”.
I learned more about mental health awareness and what Laurier has to offer that day than anything I knew previously. Bridging the Gap made a wellness booklet called “Laurier’s Declassified Mental Wellness Guide”. This booklet was made by students for students, including hand-drawn pictures to colour, activity pages, fun study break ideas, how to practice mindfulness, effective breathing and so much more. The goal is to create another tool to help students cope with mental illness, stress and anxiety. The best part of this is… they are free of charge whenever any students want them, you can send them a quick message via social media to grab your own (I’ve been using mine daily). This is just one of the many ways Laurier is trying to increase mental health conversations and awareness. The Wellness Centre also offers counselling for anyone who needs it. They help students with anything from roommate tension to grieving a loved one. This is a resource I have personally used throughout my 4 years at Laurier and my experience was very positive and helpful. Our Wellness Centre also offers mental health workshops year-round, and anyone is welcome!
With resources such as these and so many more, Laurier is making steps in the right direction to ensure that every Golden Hawk does not feel alone during this journey. Every day you are encouraged to reach out and talk to someone to get the help you deserve. I hope you know that your school is here for you, Golden Hawks, and most importantly, I hope you never feel scared or embarrassed to say ‘I need help’ again.
For other free mental health services in Ontario click here.