For Taylor Cook, one of the many reasons she supports Bell Let’s Talk day is because it helps remind people athletes are normal people too and they can suffer from mental illness just like everyone else.
“It’s kind of bad in a way, we make it seem like athletes are up on this pedestal, and they do all this stuff and they’re busy all the time and they’re always on the go,” said Cook.
“And maybe from the outside people think they live these glorious lives. But we’re no different from anyone else. We’re all human.”
Cook is on the women’s hockey team and she’s the vice president of the St. Thomas University Student Athlete Council. She, too, has had her share of mental health problems over the years.
Bell Let’s Talk day is an annual initiative put on by Bell Canada to help raise awareness and get people talking about mental health. They donate five cents for every post made on social media using the #BellLetsTalk and for phone calls and texts made by Bell Canada customers.
The STU athletics department is a big supporter of the initiative. This year, they held a special event at the women’s hockey game on Jan. 26, where fans received Bell Let’s Talk thunder sticks and had the opportunity to share their message to everyone affected by mental illness. They focused on the message #OneTeamForMentalHealth and reminded people mental illness shouldn’t hold a stigma in our society.
Nick Jackson of the men’s volleyball team said teammates and coaches are one of the biggest resources a student athlete has in time of need.
“Our men’s volleyball team is close and we’re all there to help one-another, and we can always go see our coaches and they will help direct us in the right way,” said Jackson.
“So, there’s lots of opportunities as soon as people take that first step.”
Jackson said Bell Let’s Talk day has done a lot to bring awareness to mental health.
“Before Bell Let’s Talk day, people just kind of neglected the issue. If you had a broken foot, everyone looked at you and asked, ‘Oh, how’s your foot doing?’ if it was in a cast. No one was ever really concerned about if something was going on mentally,” said Jackson.
“If you can’t see it, people tend to dismiss it, and it’s effected probably the most amount of people with the least amount of attention.”
Cook is very proud of what the athletics department does, as well as her fellow teammates. When she was going through her issues, her teammates and coaches were one of her biggest supporters.
Her grandmother pasted away last year, pulling her into a short-term depression. Some days she struggled to find the urge to go to class and didn’t want to be around people or do anything.
“I didn’t even want to go to the rink some days which was disturbing for me because that’s where I love to be and for me to not have that safe haven where I usually go to,” said Cook.
“To not have that as one of the options for me was extremely difficult and so in times like that it’s really important to fall back on your friends and family.”
Cook said her teammates and coaches have been a big support for her. She said even if you can’t make them understand what you’re going through, or even understand it yourself, just having them there to vent to is a big help.
For fellow teammate, Kristina Kocsis, having the support of her teammates and coaches made her decision to take part of the year off last year made a huge difference.
Kocsis decided to take her second semester off from athletics due to her struggles.
“The big thing was my school was suffering. In my first semester of third year my grades were not where they needed to be,” said Kocsis.
“The main focus is [STU], then grad school.”
Kocsis said her mother was especially worried and helped her to decide on whether she should take the semester off or not. It was one of the hardest decisions she’s had to make, but she is glad she did.
“It was hard to step away, but my team is awesome. We’re all obsessed with each other beyond explanation, so even though the hockey aspect was off the table, I didn’t feel excluded in any way. It was definitely what needed to happen,” said Kocsis.
Kocsis said she is not only a big supporter of Bell Let’s Talk day, but also the idea of keeping the conversation going all year long and raising awareness 365 days of the year.
“The idea of it has always kinda been with me, like the idea of promoting mental health and the stigma, the conversation, and just generally being a nice human being to anyone you can see who isn’t having a nice day. One of the big things I like is when we write those quote boards is ‘A smile goes a long way.’ It does.”