"I simply want to be open about my own struggles with mental health," writes Steve Dooley.

Why Bell Let's Talk Day matters to me

January 28, 2021

Today, Thursday, January 28, I join many other Canadians in taking time to engage in the discussion about mental health. Bell Let’s Talk Day is an annual movement to raise awareness about and de-stigmatize mental health.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says that in any given year, “one in five people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness”. This, on top of the stresses and isolation that come with COVID-19, make for incredibly difficult circumstances.

But there is hope and support. I had the opportunity to share my own experiences with mental health and navigating grief last year, and I want to use this blog post as a way of continuing this conversation, especially in light of the current situation that we find ourselves in.

A photo of Patrick Dooley.

For me this is a particularly challenging time of year, and Bell Let’s Talk Day gives such great personal support. You see, 13 years ago today, January 28th, 2008, my son Patrick Kennedy Dooley was admitted to Peace Arch hospital with a very high fever. We thought it was a typical flu – he’d be out in hours – but he never came home. After being transferred to St Paul’s hospital on January 31st, Pat died on February 5th at 4:20 pm in the afternoon. Viral encephalitis. He would have been 17 on March 14th of that year.

As the earth makes its annual trip around the sun, as we come to this time of year, I often feel a weight around my chest; lower energy, sadness and grief all again. I can also experience mental angst wondering who Pat would be today. He would have turned 30 on March 14th of this year. Would he be married? Would he have become a golf pro? Would he have kids yet?

I do not share this in the hope you feel sorry for me. Far from it: I simply want to be open about my own struggles with mental health, especially at this time of year. I know there is nothing to be ashamed about, and I hope that by sharing my story, if just one other person can open up about their own struggles, then this blog post has served a useful purpose.

I want to encourage you to seek out help if you feel that this is what you need. Especially during COVID, you may feel more anxious and stressed. Depending on what you require or how you’re feeling, there is a network of resources to support you.

Now, due to COVID, SFU’s Health and Counselling department has a wide range of resources and programs available to you online. You can see the full list virtual programs here. A few that may be of particular interest for all members of our community include the following:

Mindfulness Meditation: This is a free, 30-minute drop-in class open to students, staff, and faculty on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Each guided session includes mindfulness practice, information on habits of mind, and the opportunity for a brief discussion about the practice.

Creative CollectiveOpen to students, staff, and faculty, Creative Collective is a safe space to connect and relax with one another while engaging in different creative activities, such as crafts, movement, and more. They also have a number of pre-recorded videos and activities for you to take part in at your own pace.

LiveChat Support and Drop-In HCS Advising: If you’re a student who has questions pertaining to mental health and accessing services, a great way to do so is to connect with an Access Case Manager during their LiveChat hours or by meeting Case Managers during daily drop-in hours. Students can sign on to talk to someone about what services would work best for you.

Navigating Stress and Seeking Balance: This is an open workshop that is meant to help students cope with the stresses that come with balancing school and life. Whether you attend one or all sessions, it’s an opportunity to receive support from HCS staff and other students.

No matter what you’re going through or how you may feel, I want to reiterate the fact that you’re not alone, and that SFU is here to help and support you. Whether you take part in one of these group programs or seek out one-on-one help from our counsellors, we want to ensure that you thrive and succeed.

Today, and always, Let’s Talk about mental health and mental wellbeing.