Continuing the Conversation – Post #BellLetsTalk Day

Bell Let's Talk Ad with Howie Mandel: [On January 27 let's turn :( into :D]

Bell Let’s Talk Ad with Howie Mandel: [On January 27 let’s turn 🙁 into :D]

Here I am, a few days after Bell Let’s Talk Day wondering what happens now? Does the conversation just suddenly end because there isn’t a corporation telling us to talk about mental health? Will everyone’s mental health problems just disappear now that everything has blown over? As a person who has various mental health disorders, I both appreciate and hate Bell Let’s Talk day.

I can appreciate it because Bell encourages people to talk about mental illness in order to eliminate the stigma associated to it. Which other major corporations are doing that? Bell started this initiative back in 2011 and since then they have raised over $100 million. The concept behind it is pretty simple, for every tweet that uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, share of the image on Facebook, and text message or mobile/long distance call made by Bell users Bell on January 27, will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives.

Bell Let’s Talk day empowers those like me to share their story with others. I have seen my social media flooded by people coming out about their experiences and it feels like a victory. It helped to solidify that I wasn’t alone because there are other people going through similar things. I say similar because people believe that we’re all the same and we’re not. You can’t tell me that everyone with breast cancer had the same experience. It’s the same thing as any medical condition, we may have the same mental health disorders but the way we live through them are completely different.

I hate Let’s Talk Day because it limits us to one day a year, as it’s the only day I ever see more than a handful of people talking about mental health on my social media. It turns mental health into a fad, shining the spotlight on it then quickly casting it aside once again. The amount of tweets and posts filled with statistics and hallow promises to be there and “It gets better [heart emoji]”. It makes us ‘talk’ about it but is anyone really listening? The reason why I say hallow is because I’ve tried to approach some of these people who are seemingly supportive and I get the same responses. “Really, you’re depressed?” “You have social anxiety… but you seem really sociable” Do people actually know anything about mental health other than what is listed in the DSM? Unfortunately, I really doubt it.

Is texting, tweeting, sharing, and calling on one day going to change your life for the better? Let’s not kid ourselves, it won’t.

We can continue the conversation even without Bell and here’s how you can do it around campus.


The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller

Okay, so the Storyteller is not technically affiliated to Ryerson but it’s too amazing a concept not to share. It is a online platform for people to share their experiences and the best thing about it is it’s available 365 days a year (I guess 366 this year). You can read other peoples’ submissions or you can share your own. Submissions aren’t limited to mental health and can be about any topic, in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, music, etc. As long as they aren’t racist, homophobic, transfobic, sexist, ablest, sanist, or discriminatory in any way they will be shared. If you want to read more about The Storyteller, I previously wrote about it here. If you want to go directly to the site click here.

Ryerson SMASH Logo

Ryerson SMASH Logo

Ryerson SMASH (Students for Mental Awareness, Support, and Health)

SMASH is affiliated to Ryerson. It is a mental health and well-being group created by students for students. It offers a supportive environment and increases mental health initiatives on campus. They strive to make Ryerson a safe environment so that we can openly talk about mental health. Check out their website here or click here to formally become a member to receive emails and updates.

Ryerson Mental Health Action Logo

Ryerson Mental Health Action Logo

Ryerson Mental Wellbeing

This website offers resources for not only students but also their families and faculty and staff. There are 24-Hour Crisis Service numbers on the website as well as the links to other services available at Ryerson like the Centre for Student Development and Counseling. For more information click here.

Welcome to the Centre for Student Development and Counselling

Welcome to the Centre for Student Development and Counselling

Ryerson Student Development and Counselling

Did you know that Ryerson offers free counseling services? Well they do. They’ll set you up with a triage nurse and from your initial meeting you can decide what the best route for you to take will be. There is one-to-one counseling as well as group counseling. For more information click here.


The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 10.19.46 PM

OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


TEDxRyersonU – Interdisciplinary Collaboration


“Make something new even if it’s sharing perspectives.”
– Dr. Stephanie Walsh Matthews

This past Saturday, I also attended the TEDxRyersonU event at The Design Exchange. The theme this year was ICONOCLAST and fittingly so as all the speakers presented their various topics in a different light. The word iconoclast is a word used to define a person who challenges or questions conventional beliefs. Allowing us as an audience to think differently about things we are exposed to on a regular basis such as identity, food, art, social media, etc. Stiffra gives a great overview of whole event is about in her blog post.

My favourite talks were part of the Technology section as they were the ones that I felt most connected to. Each of the speakers who talked in the first section either related to me on personal or a professional level. Topics included identity, art, interdisciplinary research, food, and women in science. I’d like to focus on one talk in particular that really hit home. It was third talk of the day and it was given by Dr. Stephanie Walsh Matthews. Dr. Stephanie Walsh Matthews is the Program Director of Arts & Contemporary Studies at Ryerson. She spoke of interdisciplinary collaboration and how important it is in research.Dr. Walsh Matthews is actually doing her own interdisciplinary research right now as she is analyzing the language practices of children with autism spectrum disorder using robotics. She describes being a disciplinarian isn’t clean, meaning not everything fits in the lines.

The reason why I related to her talk so much is because I believe that interdisciplinary collaboration is something that us students in the Faculty of Community Services are most likely going to partake in. No matter what program you’re in you are most likely going to have to work with other professionals. A great example of interdisciplinary collaboration is this event as students from different areas of study came together to execute it.

Dr. Walsh Matthews uses the example of a drafting to further make her point. Drafting is an aerodynamic technique used in cycling. One cyclist rides closely behind another cyclist thus taking advantage of the front cyclist’s slipstream. Drafting allows the pair of cyclists to save energy. In a race you drafting isn’t allowed however, Dr. Walsh Matthews says in interdisciplinary work that it is encouraged. She goes on to say that we should be that second cyclist and follow the first until we are able to take over and become that first cyclist and someone else can follow find us. “It’s give and take,” she explains.

As a Child and Youth Care (CYC) student, I have already began to experience this interdisciplinary collaboration at my placement and I think it is an amazing thing although it definitely has its downsides as well. I’ll start with the downsides first, I think this may apply specifically to us CYCs because our program is not only relatively new but it is highly unrecognized. This lack of recognition is one of the negatives, as at times we are not treated with the same respect as other FCS programs like social work or nursing. The positives however are great and our clients definitely benefit. For example, at my placement there are social workers, Children’s Aid Society workers, Language Interpreters, etc. We cannot do everything for the client and need each other’s support in order to help our clients.

There are so many different fields that can work together to make something beautiful. Working collaboratively recognizes the strengths of others. There’s one sentence from the talk that I want to leave you with. Dr. Walsh Matthews said, “Knowing you don’t have to come in first in anything to make a difference in your life or others has its merits.”

Movember: Changing the Face of Men’s Health


Get ready for to see hairy faces on campus for the next couple of weeks because it’s officially Movember. You may have already started seeing (or growing) facial hair for the cause.

What is Movember?

So there are some terms associated to this movement.

Firstly, there is Movember or Moustache November. It originated in Australia back in 2003, when two buddies Travis Garone and Luke Slattery came up with the idea. They found 30 men willing to attempt to resurrect the moustache and bring it back in style. The next year, due to the response the Mo (moustache) received they decided to use it to their advantage in order to raise money for a good cause. Thus the Movember Foundation was born. It is now a global charity committed to advancing the men’s health movement particularly focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical activity. Since beginning it has raised over $677 million.

Next, there are Mo Bros (also known as men). The Canadian Mo Bros can sign up at The idea behind Movember is that Mo Bros will start with a clean slate (in this case face) and for the next 30 days men will donate their faces. Not in the literal sense but they will use themselves as advertisement to create awareness for the cause by growing or attempting to grow the best moustache they possibly can.

Lastly, there are Mo Sistas or sisters (also known as women). Mo Sistas are important to the movement as well because they can sigh up as team captains, recruit Mo Bros, help raise funs, and encourage men to become proactive with their health. If you want to learn more about how you can help as a Mo Sista you can check out this site:

How to Support on Campus:

Ryerson have been supporting the movement for the past few years. Last year alone they raised $17,417.

Catch a Rams game. The Ryerson Rams Athletics has incorporated Movember into their season. The annual Movember game will be next Friday, November 13 when the Men’s Volleyball team will be taking on Waterloo. This game is also part of FREE Fridays in which every Friday varsity game in the MAC this season will feature free giveaways. Here’s the link to the game if you want to check it out

Spread Awareness. Just talk about it, it doesn’t necessarily have to be at Ryerson but talk about men’s health in general. Try to encourage everyone, particularly the men in your lives to go to the doctor even though they may not necessarily want to or they are stubborn about it. Don’t wait until there is a problem before you go!

Donate. You can also visit the Ryerson Rams Movember Foundation team page here: It’s only been a few days so far but they have already started fundraising, you can donate to their cause through this page.


To Belong or Not To Belong: Is That Even A Question?


Don’t think that because it’s November doesn’t mean that it’s too late for you to join a group because it’s not!

Ryerson has many student groups, some more advertised than others but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, you just have to go out and look. There are cultural groups, religious groups, groups for people who share certain interests such as gaming or watching movies, and groups for those who are passionate about the arts such as poetry or music. If there isn’t a group that interests you then you may be able to start your own but I feel like there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find something!

Here’s the link for you to start looking:

The best way to start is by checking out their Facebook page. Join it, like their page (if they have one) and see if they have any events going on. If you want you can even ask them questions through there by posting on their wall or private messaging them. From personal experience, some groups don’t have access to their RSU emails so I’m not sure if they’ll respond to you if you send them an email through the emails listed on the RSU website.

Personally, I owe a lot to student groups for helping me grow into the person that I am today. As a socially awkward and highly anxious first year (I don’t think much has changed to be honest), I was so afraid that I would just be another student number. In my first year of university I was actually in Business Management, the largeness of the program was unsettling and I remember sitting in lectures wondering how different it was from high school.

Ryerson is a commuter school and that makes it even harder to meet people as there aren’t that many general events for all students. That year I had not only missed orientation but I had also missed all of the events at the beginning of September such as week of welcome. It felt as if everyone else had already formed their friend groups and that’s when I started thinking I was completely at a loss.

My first year of university lacked social contact until I determined enough was enough and I wanted to try putting myself out there. That’s when I started looking for groups to join. I actually found out about student groups from the front of my agenda. There used to be a huge list similar to the website but I’m not sure if this year’s agenda has that anymore.

I didn’t join my first student group until Halloween a few years ago. I joined the Filipino Canadian Association of Ryerson (FCAR) through the group I’ve met lifelong friends. I had liked the group so much that eventually I became an executive member so that I can give the opportunity for others who were in a similar position as I was in to also make friends. Many of my non-Filipino friends also joined FCAR and many of my non-Vietnamese friends joined the Vietnamese Student Association at Ryerson (VSAR), some are even executive members now!

So don’t think that because you don’t identify with a certain ethnic group that you won’t be allowed to join the cultural student groups because if you have an interest and would like to learn more about a certain culture then you won’t get turned down.

It’s an amazing feeling to feel like you belong somewhere especially in a big foreign place. All the first years that I’ve meet, I tell them the same thing. Join groups, course unions, volunteer around campus and just try to be active. Not only does it look good on your resume that you’re participating in extracurricular activities but it’s also beneficial for you in terms of networking. Ryerson is full of amazing people just waiting for you to connect with them. It’s important to take advantage of it!

So try taking a look at student groups if you haven’t already!

Good Food and Good Times

This past Tuesday, October 20th, I attended a free event hosted by the Good Food Centre.

For those of you who don’t know, the Good Food Centre (GFC) is one of the equity services provided by the RSU (Ryerson Students’ Union). It is one of the oldest post-secondary relief programs in Canada. GFC provides hunger relief for those in need by offering services as well as free non-perishable food items, and fresh produce. To read more about our amazing Good Food Centre please click here! Or if you want to stay in the loop through Facebook you can like their page here.

The workshop I attended is called Eat Up Meet Up: Fermentation 101. It is part of the Eat Up Meet Up cooking workshop series. The purpose of this series is to bring together post-secondary students and give them the opportunity to learn new skills, recipes, and food related knowledge. Which is exactly what we did on Tuesday.

We learned the basics of fermentation and it’s nutritional value. Then we attempted to make our own fermented food (sauerkraut) and ate a delicious vegan meal afterwards. Tofu tacos with avocados and sauerkraut, with salad, and cherry perogies for dessert. Yum!

Tofu tacos with salad on the side

Tofu tacos with salad on the side

Cherry perogy topped with icing sugar

Cherry perogy topped with icing sugar

So what exactly is fermentation and how does it work?

It works through a process called lacto-fermentation. There are beneficial lactic bacteria that are naturally present on cabbage or other produce, in the air, or on our hands such as lactobacilli. These lactobacilli ferment the sugars in the cabbage. The brine (water saturated with salt) used creates an anaerobic (without oxygen), acidic environment, which allows for the growth of beneficial bacteria and stops harmful bacteria. It is beneficial not only because it extends shelf life, it is easier, faster and more sustainable than canning but also because it enhances nutritive value and creates many enzymes and probiotics.

Where and when did it originate?

It originated before refrigerating and freezing was possible, it was a way to preserve foods and provide nutrients during the winter. It dates back in Eastern Europe to the 9th century but now exists in almost every culture.

For more information check out this website:

So to put our new knowledge to the test we tried making sauerkraut. If you’re like me and haven’t really had sauerkraut before let me explain to you what it is. The word sauerkraut means “sour cabbage”. It is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria, which are the same good bacteria found in yogourt.

There are many health benefits of sauerkraut. Because it is uncooked it contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes, and it is rich in enzymes. The fibre and supply of probiotics help improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel and intestinal flora, protecting against diseases of the digestive track.

At first I was taken aback at how yummy it was. The only experience I have ever had with sauerkraut was when eating perogies but I don’t even think I tried it so I was a complete sauerkraut newbie. I had no clue sauerkraut could be eaten with other things such as tacos or salad.

All in all this was an amazing experience and I cannot wait until the next one coming up on November 3rd, they haven’t announced what exactly we will be learning yet but you should join us! Like the Good Food Centre on Facebook and they will be creating the event page for it soon.

But anyway, the process of making sauerkraut was actually quite simple (even I could do it and I am culinarily declined!) see below if you want to learn how to make it.


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October is Child Abuse Prevention Month


Fittingly, as I am a Child and Youth Care student, my first post will be child related.

A lot of us are familiar with ribbon campaigns and what some ribbon colours symbolize for example, one of the more famous ones is the pink ribbon and breast cancer awareness. But have you ever come across the purple ribbon?

History of Child Abuse Prevention Month:

First things first, to eliminate confusion, Child Abuse Prevention Month is April in the United States. Ours here in the Great White North is October.

Anyway, continuing on, the purple ribbon symbolizes awareness for various things such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Epilepsy, Lupus or ADHD, among many others. In the month of October however, it symbolizes awareness for Child Abuse Prevention. This matter directly affects some of our FCS programs such as Early Childhood Studies, Child and Youth Care, and Social Work (depending on what direction you go, I guess) so I believe it is important that we take a moment to familiarize ourselves.

According to Durham Children’s Aid Society, the use of the purple ribbon to signify Child Abuse Prevention Month was first started by them 23 years ago and then was adopted by organizations across Canada.

Signs of Child Abuse or Neglect:

There are many different ways in which children show signs that they’ve been harmed or neglected.

Physical Harm

Physical harm is a little more obvious than other types of harm because the evidence is on the child. Other than physical or internal injuries, physical harm can also be when there is inadequate child supervision, protection or care.

Signs of physical harm includes various injuries, inconsistent explanations as to how the child received the injuries, flinching when touched unexpectedly, extreme aggression or withdrawal, or wariness of adults.

Emotional Harm

Emotional harm is one of the most difficult types of harm to identify and prove. It happens when a child is treated in such a negative way that their self-esteem is severely impacted. It also includes the lack of a nurturing environment and exposure to conflict, abuse, or violence.

Signs of emotional harm include severe depression, anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, attention seeking, bed-wetting, or self destructive or aggressive behaviour.

Sexual Harm

Sexual harm is not only the sexual exploitation of a child but it is also when the person having charge of the child is aware or should be aware of the possibility of sexual molestation or exploitation by another person and they are unable to protect them.

Signs of sexual harm include age-inappropriate play, unusual or excessive itching in the genital or anal area, injuries to said area, displaying explicit acts, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge, or seductive behaviour.


The origin of neglect usually stems from lack of knowledge of appropriate care for children or the inability to provide for a child that has special medical, mental, emotional or developmental needs that require more care, service or treatment.

Signs of neglect include poor hygiene, unattended physical problems or medical needs, consistent lack of supervision or lunch, delinquent acts or alcohol or drug abuse, truancy, inappropriate clothing for weather or dirty clothing.

For more in-depth information on the different types of harm please visit:

What to do if you Suspect Abuse or Neglect:

Depending on what program you are in, you may already be familiar with the term “Duty to Report. For those of you who don’t know, in short Duty to Report means that we have an obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To whom you report to first, may depend on the situation, for example, if I were working in the field I would most likely tell my supervisor first and with his or her support I will then make a call to Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Ultimately, you would need to contact the proper authorities.

There are these public misconceptions that Children’s Aid does nothing more than take away peoples’ children however that’s wrong. In 2013, 97% of CAS investigations ended with children staying with their families. Surprising right? There is a new focus on in-home, early intervention services, which is based on the recognition that caring family settings are positive for children and early intervention can reduce the need for more intrusive services later.

If you suspect that a child is being harmed or neglected please make the call to CAS. Here is a website to help you determine which CAS location is the most appropriate for your case.

So you’re not quite sold are you? Still hesitant to make the call? Are you thinking that you only have a hunch or that you don’t have sufficient evidence and you don’t want to be the boy who called wolf? Well here are some tweets from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society that may help ease you:


How to Help:
There are many ways to help support this cause, here are a few:

  • Spread Awareness. Yes, it’s a heavy subject but we need to talk about it more. Post about it on social media, share posts on FaceBook, retweet on Twitter, do what us Millennials or Gen Z are known to do and if that fails then word of mouth is always a good back up plan. After all it is how information got around before technology!
  • Wear Purple. October 16, 2015 is this year’s Dress Wear Purple Day in which people are urged to incorporate purple into their outfits in order to help increase awareness.
  • Donate or Volunteer. You can check out organizations such as BOOST, which is a Child and Youth Advocacy centre based here in Toronto dedicated to eliminating child abuse and violence. You can donate, participate in their fundraisers, or volunteer with them.
    • For more information you can visit their website:
  • Bake or eat baked goods. Woah, how can I help a cause and eat yummy treats you wonder? On campus, the Child and Youth Care Course Union will be holding a bake sale on Monday, October 19 on the 6th floor of the SHE building from 11AM until 2PM. If you’re interested in volunteering, baking, or donating some goodies for the cause then you can contact me at All the proceeds from the bake sale will go towards the abovementioned organization BOOST.



Here are some more links if you want to learn more about Child Abuse Prevention: