Ryerson Stands with #BlackLivesMatterTO

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http://theeyeopener.com/2016/04/ryerson-students-march-with-blm-to/

Garnering a lot of media attention lately has been Toronto’s very own Black Lives Matter movement. A very pertinent social justice issue of our time, the Black Lives Matter movement holds its roots in our neighbouring country, the United States, where the current racial climate is centred on the persecution of the members of the black community. There have been numerous injustices involving the various police officers in different states of America, wrongly persecuting black individuals, namely, young black men. Unfortunately, for the majority, the result has been death for these wrongly persecuted individuals. This has led to a revolution in the black community; the Black Lives Matter activists used their voices to speak out on such injustices and bring honor to the fallen people of their community. They have protested various streets in the United States, asking government officials and police department officials to end the racial profiling and racial discrimination. The powerful voices of the Black Lives Matter movement in the States has been heard all around the world – including our very own neighbourhood, Toronto.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto – Coalition was is made up of Black Torontonians working in solidarity with various communities in our local streets of Toronto to work towards a common goal: social justice. This group has acknowledged the deep racial discrimination and stigmatization that black communities in the States have been going through, and have noticed similar patterns of behaviour in our very own neighbourhood. Currently, the Black Lives Matter Toronto activists have been fighting for justice for the death of Andrew Loku.

Andrew Loku was a 45 year old man, living in an apartment building on Eglinton Ave. W and Caledonia Ave. On the evening of July 4, 2015, Andrew was disturbed in his sleep by a significantly loud noise from his upstairs neighbours. He asked them continuously to minimize the noise, so that he can be able to sleep, but the noise persisted. Overwhelmed by the loud noise, and being unable to sleep, Loku grabbed a hammer and began banging it against the apartment hallway doors and walls. The police were called to address this particular noise. Within seconds of the police officer’s arrivals, a police officer shot Andrew Loku twice, killing him in the hallway of his apartment building.

Andrew Loku was regarded by all those who knew him as a kind and friendly man. He was a husband and a father to five children, and lived alone in Toronto, while working to bring his family to Canada from where they currently live in South Sudan. He graduated from George Brown College in the construction program, and worked various jobs to make ends meet for himself and for his family back in South Sudan.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition has challenged the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to release the name of the officer who shot Andrew Loku, having not been in immediate danger or threat himself. The identity of the officer has remained un-released while the SIU investigates logistics of the situation – such as whether or not officers were notified that the building in which they were responding to, the building that Andrew Loku resided in, was leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association. This apartment complex offered affordable housing services for people suffering with a mental illness. The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition have worked tirelessly in protest, rain or shine – snow or sun, to plead to government officials, such as Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, to address this serious injustice. As such, the officer who fatally shot Andrew Loku has not yet been charged for this unjust act nearly a year after his untimely death.

I have had the privilege of visiting the hub of the protests on 40 College Street, where I met protestors from BLM-TO. It was an environment unlike any other. While one would imagine a protest to have quite a tense, aggressive, and hostile energy, the BLM-TO exuded nothing but love and hospitality to all those who observed and/or joined the protest. There was food, water, warm blankets, gloves, and hats being passed around to the protestors – not just from amongst one another, but from the on-lookers as well. There were shouts of social justice, peace, and equality. There were cries and pleads of putting an end to racial profiling and discrimination, and a plea to the SIU and the Toronto Police Department to be accountable for their actions. There was music, dancing, motivating speeches, laughter, and deep discussions to honor the valuable black lives lost to racial injustices.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ryerson students in solidarity with BLM-TO on campus the other day. The march was organized by numerous student groups on campus, in collaboration with BLM-TO, to protest social justice in and around the Ryerson community. With Ryerson being at the very heart of Toronto, it seemed only natural that Ryerson students stand in solidarity with our community. Among the student groups during this march for social justice included the Ryerson East Africans’ Students Association (REASA); Ryerson Student Union (RSU); and the United Black Students at Ryerson (UBSR). During the march, the students in protest used their voices to urge other fellow students to show their support by donating supplies, food, water, warm clothing, etc to the BLM-TO Coalition, to encourage the progression of the protest. Students on campus were eager and receptive to what Ryerson students and BLM-TO had to say, and showed their solidarity with the movement. It was a refreshing and culturally enriching experience to have witnessed – and frankly, it made me even more proud to be a Ram and a Torontonian.

If you would like to donate and show your support and solidarity, BLM-TO can be found here:

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Facebook

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Twitter

blacklivesmatterTO@gmail.com

40 College Street, Toronto, ON

Resources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/toronto/the-life-and-bloody-death-of-andrew-loku

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/07/07/andrew-lokus-death-by-a-police-bullet-came-quickly-witness-says.html

RNAO Region 7 Mental Health Workshop

On Monday, March 21, I attended the last event for the academic school year hosted by the RNAO: The Region 7 Mental Health Workshop. The aim of this workshop was to educate Ryerson’s nursing students about the importance of Mental Health in health care and the application of medicine. There was also an emphasis about actions nurses in the field can take to prioritize and maximize optimal outcomes for the mental health of the patient population. The evening consisted of a dynamic panel of speakers – all of whom are professionals in the field of mental health – that provided a unique and comprehensive perspective on the role of nurses play in mental health. Some of the speakers who spoke out on the issue of mental health include: Alumni of Ryerson’s Nursing degree program, representatives from the Toronto Police Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT), and a new graduate registered nurse working in Psychiatric Emergency.

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Each speaker shared their personal experience in dealing with mental health throughout their clinical practice. The first speaker of the night – a Ryerson Nursing alumni who now worked at Ryerson to guide current nursing students as they navigate through this program – spoke about her experience with mental illness and working with nursing students. She spoke about nursing students being one of the most notorious group of students who experience the highest level of stress. This is all credited to a demanding, highly difficult, and competitive program; having to balance academic work with clinical placements; balancing extracurricular activities; balancing personal life; etc. All of these aspects can create quite a toll on the student’s mental health, as they begin to feel overwhelmed and over-stressed. Without a strong social support network, and without adequate coping mechanisms, the nursing student’s mental health may be compromised. They may feel isolated and depressed, their grades may suffer, their personal life and self-care may be neglected, etc. This speaker spoke about the importance for nursing students to seek help for whatever they may need; whether that’s academic or otherwise. She emphasized the importance of building a strong social support network, whomever that may include, and to take advantage of on-campus resources at Ryerson. Attendees were attentive and receptive to this speaker’s insights, as often times, nursing students neglect to take care of their self as they are too focused on taking care of others. Personally, I found it refreshing to be reminded that my own mental health is important as well, and that while the mental health of my patients is an important prioritization, it is important to take care of my own mental health. Providing care for others begins there.

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The next speakers for the evening were representatives from Toronto Police’s MCIT program. One of the representatives included a Toronto Police Officer who is specially trained to handle cases with individuals suffering from mental illnesses. The other representative from Toronto Police’s MCIT program was a mental health nurse, who is specially trained by Toronto Police to respond to cases with individuals who are compromising their conduct in society, due to their mental illness. This was a significant topic for the night, as the involvement of nurses in the industry of forensics is a relatively novel concept. Nurses typically work in the traditional health care environment – acute or community – whereas police officers work in their separate jurisdiction. Although there has been significant co-operation between both industries in several cases, the concept of merging both industries to address issues of mental health has only just been introduced. The speakers spoke about their individual experience with mental health as a police officer and as a mental health nurse. The police officer drew on different strategies he would employ to de-escalade situations where individuals who suffered from mental health were at jeopardy of experiencing trouble with the law. For example, as a police officer, he would often exert force and assertive actions in order to de-escalade situations and calm the individual down. If the situation escalated any further, he would be forced to apprehend the individual and take them to hospital to treat their mental illness. The mental health nurse described her role as the individual who would be typically more successful in de-escalating the situation and calming the individual down. She noted that most individuals tend to avoid police officers when in this state, for fear of repercussion, so they would prefer to talk to someone else. In this scenario, the mental health nurse is particularly useful in communicating with the individual, negotiating with them, and working with them to ensure they receive the most adequate care for their mental health illness. With both roles working together in the community, they prove to be a very successful service for the municipality of Toronto. They promote health and safety within communities in Toronto but addressing mental health crises experienced all over the city.

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The final speaker of the evening was a new graduate RN, working as a psychiatric emergency nurse at St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton. This final speaker was especially significant as not only was she working in the mental health field, she also experienced mental illness herself early on in her life. This was a highlight of the evening as not only did we get to hear the insights and perspective of someone working in mental health, but she was also able to enlighten us with her experience as a mental health patient. She spoke about the struggles she faced making sense of her illness as a young child, how it progressed when she entered university, how difficult it was for her to find the help that she needed, and what resources she used when she was finally able to find the help that she needed. She talked about ending the stigma related to mental illness, and emphasizing how important it is to understand that mental illness is a biological and chemical imbalance in your physiology, not an “attitude you just need to fix.” She spoke about not being ashamed about having to take medication for your illness, and how taking medication can be life-saving measures to take. It was refreshing to hear a perspective that was beyond nursing and professionals. Hearing this perspective from someone having experienced both sides of the spectrum – both the patient and the health care provider – renewed my personal way of thinking, and my own clinical practice. She talked about how her personal experience has catapulted her career and how she uses it to affect positive change in the mental health of her own patients today, and how her personal experience today not only shaped her as an individual, but has shaped her personal clinical practice.

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Needless to say, this workshop provided quite a dynamic and varied range of perspectives and insights on mental health. Nurses are often used to hearing quite similar and repetitive talks about mental health issues and what we can do to address such issues with the patient population. During this night, new perspectives and thoughts word brought to the table. It gave eager nursing students something to really think about in terms of new ways to tackle mental health issues. It opened eyes and doors to different opportunities that will enable you to affect positive change in mental health on a larger scale. At the end of the night, attendees were able to leave with a renewed understanding of what mental health means to them, their patients, and to their clinical practice.

2nd Annual Nursing Networking Night: From Graduation to Occupation

On Monday. February 22, 2016 – 6pm – 9pm – I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Nursing Network Night at Ryerson University – “From Graduation to Occupation”, hosted by the Nursing Course Union and Canadian Nursing Students Association (NCU-CNSA). This event began last year as a way to engage nursing students at Ryerson to be more involved, engaged, and take initiative in their career and professional development. It turned out to be highly successful in 2015 and garnered a lot of positive feedback from attendees. So this year, they announced their second event in order to continue encouraging nursing students at Ryerson to facilitate a smooth transition from graduation to occupation.

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The evening began with a few words of welcome from representatives from both NCU and CNSA. Then we jumped straight into a few words from a representative at Ryerson’s Career Centre, who shed some light on the basics of Networking. She was able to teach us the ins and outs of the process of networking – the do’s and don’ts, and the how to’s. She was also there to advocate and speak for the resource available on campus that is Ryerson’s Career Centre. The Career Centre is a highly valuable resource for Ryerson Students when in the pursuit if a job or to help facilitate an easier transition post-graduation to work and career life. They help students with things like making the ideal cover letter and resume, building your LinkedIn profile, interview tips and practice, etc. If you’re ever in need for great ways to build and improve your professional self, you can find Ryerson’s Career Centre at POD60 (located just below The Hub).

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After the presentation from Ryerson’s Career Centre, a couple of speakers who were Ryerson Nursing Alumni, spoke about their own personal stories and their journeys. They shed some light and inspiration as they talked about the different ways in which they were able to reach their goals of becoming an registered nurse (RN). This portion of the evening was especially helpful for the nursing student attendees as we were able to truly relate to these alumni, knowing that not too long ago, they, too, were in the same situation that we currently are in. Their stories of their journeys were captivating, motivating, and inspiring. It truly highlighted how personal the process is of becoming an RN and how nursing students can better prepare themselves for not just a job, but a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

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After the presentation from the alumni speakers, the evening moved forward to the dinner, graciously supplied by Chipotle.

After dinner was the highlight of the night: the Q&A panel. NCU-CNSA was able to get nursing managers from the major hospitals in the downtown to represent each hospital organization, and answer any questions we may have. The nursing managers and representatives came from Michael Garron Hospital (formerly known as TEGH – Toronto East General Hospital), UHN (University Health Network – comprised of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), and The Hospital for Sick Children. The line up of panellists truly excited the nursing students in the room – the majority of whom eager to work for such established and world-renowned organizations. The Q&A panel was the opportunity of the night to ask any and every question running through every nursing student’s mind.

“What is the ideal candidate for you?”

“What kinds of people do you prefer to hire – internal or external applicants?”

“What are the different kinds of interviews you conduct?”

“Do you hire applicants prior to completion of graduation and/or NCLEX examination?”

“How do you build a strong mentor relationship?”

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Needless to say, the Q&A of highly experienced registered nurses in executive positions within the most renowned hospitals in the country, did nothing short of answering each questions with clarity and efficiency. Not only did they answer questions well to the highest degree, they also offered valuable insight and advice as to how to begin your career as an RN. They were more than generous with their time and their thoughts on how to transition from a nursing student, graduate nursing student, to RN. The panellists were gracious and true role models for each nursing student attendee in the room.

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The night was a great success, as anticipated! Everything went smoothly, all in attendance enjoyed themselves, and nursing students were able to connect with their peers and their prospective employers. We learned how to market ourselves in the health care industry, how to appeal to employers and organizations, and how to prepare ourselves for the near future.

A Word About Mental Health

In honour of today being #BellLetsTalk day, a national campaign to end the stigma surrounding Mental Health and Illness, I have a word or two to say about mental health.

It’s not always obvious.

As a student nurse who has seen different forms of illnesses and diseases in front of her face, I can tell you that a fracture or wheezing in the lungs tends to be one of our easier cases. There are routine assessments for that sort of thing that have been used and developed by medical professionals and clinical specialists for many years. There are actual diagnoses that these medical professionals and clinical specialists can validate and the rest of the medical team can get behind by. There are treatments and medications for these diseases/illnesses, like insulin or morphine, which have been commonly used and prescribed for these illnesses. So when someone comes in for having an unusually high blood pressure or for spraining a joint, the medical team is prepped and ready to treat it. It’s taken with a high degree of seriousness.

When someone comes up to another person and says they’re feeling depressed, the most common responses are:

“What for? You have a great life – you have nothing to be depressed about!”

“Just try smiling and going out with your friends more!”

“You’ll be fine, just make more of an effort.”

They are quite rarely treated seriously. It is only when very serious things occur due to depression when people begin to realize the magnitude of their words or actions. Why do we have to get to that point?

It is important to be conscious about the effects our words and actions have to other people. It is vital to be understanding, empathetic, and a source of comfort for other people, and not a place of judgement. I believe this to be an “everyday rule” but this significantly applies to mental health. Your mental health is incredibly important. It’s the source of your ability for self-care, the source for your ability to function productively on a day-to-day basis, the source for your ability to interact with others, etc. It’s important to ensure that that part of you is well taken care of.

Mental illness is therefore a physiological, clinical illness that affects that part of the person. Mental illness is a product of neurological and psychological defects. Social construct refuses to see it in that way. Society would have us to believe that mental illness “isn’t real” and that it is just a way for people to “be lazy” and “complain.” I cannot stress this enough but that ideology is 100%, completely and utterly false.

If we buy in to this way of thinking, if we adopt this ideology about mental illness that society would like us to believe, we are facilitating the stigma that surrounds this issue. We are silencing voices that need to be heard. We are condemning the people who have these illnesses to fight a difficult battle alone and to suffer this silently. We are not allowing people the right to access safe, efficient health care that can possibly save their life.

What’s funny is that we wait for when someone takes their own life due to depression to be sorry for our actions.

Mental illness is still so heavily stigmatized. People still don’t take it seriously. People are ignorant about how debilitating it is emotionally and physiologically. You can provide someone with as much clinical proof as possible – that depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, etc. are all physiological illnesses – and they’ll still tell you to just “get over it.” Get real. Your mental health is equally as important as i.e your cardiovascular health. Be educated. Be kind and understanding. Think before you speak. Reach out. You can be saving a life just by being an open-minded and kind person.12651241_10156543597845457_5977017614954725656_n

Welcome, Winter 2016 Term!

Welcome back, Ryerson! Today marks the first day of the Winter 2016 term. We hope that you are well rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated from a well-deserved break.

Now that a new semester has begun, we face a fresh start to the remainder of the academic year. We take all that we learned in the previous semester, and take steps towards improving ourselves as students. Perhaps last semester, we learned that procrastinating on a 7-10 page research essay may not be the best way to reduce stress and maximize efficiency. Perhaps we learned that having a diet that consists of 90% McDonald’s across the street from the SLC, and 10% RedBull whenever the RedBull guys come on campus and hand out free RedBull, is not the best diet to go with. Perhaps we learned that Yahoo Answers cannot solve this incredibly difficult question, and that maybe we should have taken advantage of the Professor’s office hours, especially with the exam tomorrow morning. Whatever we learned last semester, let’s use it to propel us forward towards becoming better students, and enhancing our academic performance.

At Ryerson, there are numerous ways in which we can accomplish this goal each semester. Fortunately for us Ryerson students, we are offered with a variety of different resources we can go to, in order to consult with people who can help us steer towards a better direction.

Here are a couple of Ryerson’s great learning sources!

Student Learning Support (SLS) At the Student Learning Centre (SLC)

Where: 4th Floor of the Student Learning Centre (SLC) Building

Who: An enthusiastic, intelligent, and interdisciplinary team of professionals from various backgrounds (i.e teaching, mentorship, coaching, etc) dedicated to helping students develop their academic skills

What: A variety of services and programs offered to students at Ryerson aimed towards helping students develop valuable academic and study skills, in order to improve the communication and application of their intelligence

Why: To improve your academic skills, boost your confidence as a student, improve numeracy/literacy/communication skills, and overcome academic barriers

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Tri-Mentoring Program

Where: POD-50

Who: A team of senior level students from a variety of different program backgrounds, matched with first year students in their respective programs, eager to provide guidance, mentorship, and leadership

What: A program at Ryerson University to facilitate the learning and development of students, especially incoming students, through mentorship, learning support, and leadership

Why: Entering university for the first time can be overwhelming and first year students often have a lot of questions and concerns. They can seek answers, guidance, friendship, and support from senior level students in their respective programs that have been in their position before, and learn from what they have done through their insights and experiences!

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If you are looking for guidance or support at all this upcoming semester, I hope you get a chance to take a look at these great resources. These are only a couple out of a lot of learning resources that Ryerson has to offer so look around and see what works for you!

We, here, at the Faculty of Community Serivces Student Life Blog, wish you all a wonderful and successful Winter 2016 term! Good luck and all the best.

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Ryerson Students

It’s that exciting time of the year… the official last day of 2015! Tomorrow, not only do we welcome a new day, but a new year – the first day of 2016! 2015 has been such a big year for so many of us, and with the near year staring us straight square in the face, we look forward to making 2016 even better than 2015.

During this time of the year is when the infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” begin to be concocted. These New Year’s Resolutions are meant to outline our goals for the upcoming year, with the intent to stick by them no matter what. These resolutions are generally goals towards self-improvement. Some popular ones are include:

“Get healthier.”
“Save more money.”
“Stop procrastinating.”
“Cut down on coffee.”
“Sleep earlier.”

While the above-mentioned resolutions are wonderful resolutions, they are typically difficult to maintain unless you have discipline made of steel. Many of us are mere humans who make mistakes here and there that veer us off-track from our resolutions, and we find ourselves just neglecting and forgetting them altogether. In my opinion, New Year’s Resolutions should be two things: Specific and Realistic. They should be specific enough to fit your personal goals and aspirations, and it helps to really narrow your focus on what you can do to really achieve these goals. They should be realistic enough so that you’re not asking too much of yourself and you won’t be overly-stressed out or feel overly-pressured if unable to achieve them.

Therefore, with these criteria in mind, I have created for you a list of New Year’s Resolutions that hopefully resonate with you more and you are able to hopefully stick to in 2016:

3 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR RYERSON STUDENTS

1. DO NOT BE SO TRUSTING OF THE TTC OR GO TRANSIT
Think you can wake up at 7:00am because it only takes you 15 minutes to get ready, takes you 10 minutes to get to the station, and the train/subway/bus comes at exactly 7:30am every morning? Think again. If you’re a first year student who is still learning the ropes when it comes to commuting, and you currently have this mentality, you’re in for a rude awakening. The TTC or GO TRANSIT, although extremely helpful and necessary, have a knack for being quite unreliable when it comes to being on time. Don’t assume that you will have a smooth commute, free of delays or late arrivals each day. Do yourself a favour and wake up earlier in order to arrive at your station earlier so you don’t miss that 8am exam worth 40% of your grade. It may suck but you know what else sucks? Missing an 8am exam worth 40% of your grade because your subway was experiencing delays.

2. TRY TO AVOID THE TEMPTATION OF THE EATON CENTRE ASKING YOU TO BLOW YOUR MONEY THERE RATHER THAN GO TO CLASS
Going to school in Downtown Toronto is all kinds of fantastic – and also forces you to face all kinds of temptation. That being said, Ryerson University’s prime location gives you access to absolutely everything, including one of Canada’s largest and most popular malls, The Eaton Centre. There’s nothing more tempting than it finally being pay day, but you’ve got a class that day, and walking past Eaton Centre with “SALE” signs on the window. This kind of excitement is enough to get your blood pumping. But if you knew what was good for you, you’d repeat this mantra: “You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class. You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class. You don’t need another Roots sweater. You do need to pass this class.

3. GET OFF YOUR PHONE WHEN YOU’RE WALKING DOWN YONGE ST, YONGE & DUNDAS SQ – OR ANY STREET FOR THAT MATTER
It’s 2016 and communication and human interaction is at it’s highest. Unfortunately, the form of communication that 99.9% of the population resorts to nowadays any form that our cellphones allow us – SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. It’s hard not to have our phones in our hands, heads down, eyes on the screen, and responding to everyone and everything 24/7. When you’re a Ryerson student, this is especially difficult when you’re trying to get to class and having to weave through the hundreds and thousands of people in Downtown Toronto each day. You’re risk for running into things is already increased by going to school in Canada’s major city alone – you’re only increasing your own risk by texting while walking. Do yourself and others around you a favour – wait until you get to the SLC to reply to that text or check that email. Keep your head up when you’re crossing the Yonge & Dundas Sq intersection. Let’s start a new campaign this 2016: Ryerson Students Against Text-Walking. Let’s make it happen, people.

With that being said, I’m sure you can think of tons more. I sincerely hope you’ll take these three into consideration when coming up with your own New Year’s resolutions. Let us know how you get on throughout the year. If you stick to them and achieve your resolutions – fantastic! You’re on the road to success. If you slip up a little bit and veer off track – it’s never too late to get back on track! You, too, are on the road to success.

Most of all, I hope you have a wonderful 2016 filled with health, happiness, success, and love. Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and enjoy yourselves!

Happy New Year and let’s make 2016 a great one!

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! 

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

 

If You’re Stressed Out and You Know it Clap Your Hands!

Stress can be difficult to define. Metabolically it causes our body to release hormones which affect our mood and cause inflammation which is damaging to our overall physical and mental health. Even that wasn’t much of a definition. Stress seems to have varying definitions as it affects individuals differently, some thrive on stress while others buckle from the pressure. Defining stress is as difficult as describing how it feels; exhausting, hungering, painful, tight, irritating, angering, and depressing give a bit of a range. I might not be able to give a good definition of stress, but it is certain that stress is not good for your body or mental wellbeing. Chronic stress is associated with most major diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Research has found that depression and anxiety rates are high among university students and it is no surprise as exams and coursework can be very stressful. What is important for any student is to find a way to manage their stress and to cope with it. There are a plethora of stress management techniques but one that has been the most beneficial in my life is yoga.

 
Yoga has been found to be an effective stress and anxiety reliever. Studies comparing stress levels of yoga practitioners and non-yoga practitioners have found that stress and inflammation go down with yoga practice. There have even been studies where yoga is compared to other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a popular form of psychotherapy that works to change the way you think and act. These studies found that while the other therapies were effective, yoga seemed to bring about more and different positive effects. This is not to say that therapies should be stopped or replaced by yoga, but perhaps yoga should be included as part of the therapy. Looking at studies that are somewhat more relevant that involved undergraduate students, found that yoga helped with perceived stress and was found to raise mood and decrease anxiety; a tool that may be very helpful in the coming weeks.

 
Yoga is a time when your mind can fall away from work and studying and move internally to focus on your body. It’s funny how such a big part of our lives can be forgotten so quickly when we are forced to focus on something else; exams and assignments float away and the release of built up tension in your muscles smacks you in the face. In yoga you feel every shift in every muscle in your body, it is a very active form of movement even though it seems very passive from the outside. Yoga requires strength and endurance as you work to properly and energetically contort your body. The postures allow your muscles to stretch which is where the idea of the “release of tension” comes from. Not only is yoga or even just being active good for your body due to the physical release of stress, it also good for your mind.

 
Mental health studies have found that being active, including yoga practice, will raise mood. In the case of yoga this could be because it allows for meditation or personal reflection. Being able to reflect is paramount for personal growth; it is a major source of learning. When one can reflect on their actions and thoughts they can find out new things about their life and how they really feel. This may seem terrifying but it is extremely useful. When you have an unfiltered opinion of yourself it allows you to see who you are and what you think of yourself; it helps you to answer big questions like: am I happy? You don’t really need yoga to partake in personal reflection, but it does provide you with the time to do so and combing reflection with physical activity may help to clear your mind and allow for deeper thought.


Reflection is something we need in life and finding a way and the time can be difficult but it will be beneficial in the end. Figuring out who we are is a hard task and it takes a lifetime; it’s not something we decide in a day. Reflecting on our life choices as we make them will help us through the process of finding ourselves and will keep us grounded in reality. There is a lot of pressure on young people today to make big life choices in a small amount of time; it’s no wonder we’re all stressed out. Having to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life in four years is difficult. However, one thing to remember is that there is no law that stipulates you must decide your life trajectory right away or that you only have one shot in life; having more than one career is becoming normalized in Canadian society. Looking at myself and my friends, we certainly did not stick to plan A, some of us are on plan E already; it takes time to find what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong the choice and try to avoid letting it stress you out, there’s always a plan B. Go after what you want in life and don’t be afraid to let that change, you don’t know where it might take you.


Ryerson has a Centre for Student Development and Counselling located in JOR-07c, where any student can go to receive counselling and learn more about mental health. If you have feelings of depression or need help managing your stress it would be advantageous to contact the centre. Additionally, if you are interested in trying yoga, Ryerson Moves is putting on free yoga classes (mats available) every day in SLC for the rest of November to combat end-of-term stress. For 40 minutes at varying times of day you can journey up the fifth floor of the SLC (room 508) and hopefully destress a little. If this is your first time trying yoga be sure to inform your instructor and tell them about any injuries you may have had. Yoga can be dangerous if not done properly, so if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

What are we #BellLetsTalk-ing about?

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On January 28th, there were 122,150, 772 interactions for #BellLetsTalk.  #BellLetsTalk is an initiative by Bell to talk about mental health and work towards ending the stigma that surrounds it.  For every text, call and tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, Bell donated to mental health initiatives across Canada.  I’d like to move beyond looking at the amount Bell has donated and look at the awareness piece of the campaign.  What are we really talking about when we tweet #BellLetsTalk?

One of the first things I noticed on January 28th was which mental health issues were being discussed.  There were a lot of tweets about depression and reaching out for help if feeling suicidal.  Bell had many fact sheets and photos with statistics posted on Twitter.  The one I saw the most included information about anxiety, depression, OCD and eating disorders.  There was no mention of other mental health issues such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  They were not only missing in Bell’s posters but what people were tweeting.  How can we have a discussion around mental health and reducing stigma without talking about bipolar and schizophrenia?

The second group of tweets that caught my eye were “tweet something that makes you happy”.  While not explicitly stated, it was implied that tweeting something that makes you happy would help depression.  This really shows a lack of understanding about what depression actually is; thinking of happy things doesn’t make depression go away, it’s not just being sad.  Within the discussion about depression, many people were tweeting to reach out if you need help and to talk about your mental health.  To me, this puts the onus of ending stigma on people who are living with mental health issues.  People reaching out won’t end stigma, we need to end stigma so people are able to talk and reach out.

Fortunately, I follow some people on Twitter who critically look at the issues of mental health and #BellLetsTalk.  They tweeted some great examples of the types of discussions we really need to have around mental health that go further than saying “if you’re depressed, reach out”.  They tweeted about black people being overrepresented in mental health statistics, lack of mental health services for children, PTSD experienced by veterans, the number of people who are homeless with mental health issues, how medical documents are used in sexual assault cases by the defence to prove the victim is “crazy”, and how mental health diagnosis and stigma are experienced differently depending on race, class, gender, sexual orientation and disability.  These are just a few examples of the critical conversations that were happening and need to continue to happen.

#BellLetsTalk will happen again next year.  I think we all need to not just show up, but actually be present and discuss what’s really happening in regards to mental health on #BellLetsTalk day and everyday.  Simply saying, “I know people have mental health issues and I’m here if you need me” is not enough.

Quelling the rising panic

 

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I have been thinking a lot lately about what to do when everything appears overwhelming and panic seems uncontrollable. I recently presented at my first conference and speaking in front of people terrifies me. Even though I knew my mind was blowing it out of proportion I still let it get out of control. So I have created a list of things I can do the next time this happens.

1. Meditation and deep breathing

I used to meditate on a regular basis and then fell out of the habit. Buddhism tells you when you meditate to notice your thoughts, label them as thinking and then to let them go. This practice can be really helpful when you are stressed. Stressful feelings are caused by stressful thoughts. If you can let thoughts go instead of getting wrapped up and following them you have a better chance of finding equanimity.

2. Take some time for self care

Self care means different things for different people. For me, getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking plenty of water and going for walks can help me deal with stress. Sometimes, it is hard to take the time to do these things but they can be vital. Self care also means knowing what to avoid. Excess alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can aggravate stressful situations.

3. Avoid procrastination (well, as much as you can)

I am the queen of procrastination. I have mastered the art of procrasti-cleaning, procrasti-cooking and even gone as far as procrasti-ironing. Sometimes procrastination can be helpful. Everyone needs down time to give your mind a break and let ideas percolate. The key is know when you are taking a needed break and when you are avoiding necessary work.

4. Lower your expectations

I know this sounds odd but a lot of times stress is caused by the over riding need to be perfect. But you, me, everyone, we can’t be perfect. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best, but expecting to control everything just isn’t realistic. This is much easier than it sounds, and one that I have the most difficutly with, but trying to let go of control will lessen your stress.

5. Talk about it or write it out

Clearing out your mind of stressful thoughts can help. Write them out, talk them out, just get them out. Bottling everything up, only allows stress to build and bubble until it over flows.