The University of Toronto’s 900 Varsity Blues athletes are among the 20,000 student athletes from 53 Canadian universities joining forces for Bell Let's Talk Day.
Wearing Bell Let's Talk toques, the student athletes are helping lead conversations on campus about the impact of mental illness and how to fight the stigma attached to it.
“Mental wellness is a significant focus on the University of Toronto campus and the Varsity Blues are committed to participating in projects that promote a safe and judgment-free environment in which to discuss mental health,” says Beth Ali, executive director of athletics and co-curricular physical activity at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “Our student athletes have partnered with the Bell Let's Talk campaign to advance education and discussion on mental health and encourage support and assistance for all who need it.”
Leading up to Jan. 25, student athletes across Canada have been hosting events at 100 university games and appearing in the Bell Let’s Talk video series.
The Blues hosted two men’s hockey games, track and field, and swimming events where fans had the opportunity to sign talk bubbles and banners in support of mental health. They were also encouraged to take pictures and share them on social media on Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell is expected to donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for each of these interactions.
Varsity Blues swimmer Nathalin Moy and hockey player Mason Nowak are two of six Academic All-Canadian student athletes featured in the Bell Let’s Talk video.
“I’ve been an advocate for student athlete mental health initiatives since I burned out from swimming a few years ago so this was a perfect opportunity to directly get involved in the cause,” says Moy, who is in her final year of engineering science at U of T.
“As student athletes we are in a unique position to set an example in shaping the conversation on mental health. We are under a lot of pressure to perform both academically and athletically, and though it can be tough at times, the sports culture demands sucking it up and always pushing through the pain. If we can break that culture down and create a safe space where conversations around mental health can occur naturally, the rest of the world will follow.”
Moy is excited that the Bell Let’s Talk campaign this year involved student athletes across the country, representing all university sport conferences, including the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA) and Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).
“By involving the entire Canadian student athlete community, the campaign’s mission to spread awareness and start the conversation on mental health will reach a whole new level,” says Moy.