February 29th, 2024

Students send uplifting messages on Let’s Talk Day

By Brendan Miller on January 24, 2024.

Coffee sleeve made by students are displayed at the Station Coffee Co. The sleeves will be included with coffee purchases at the local shops today for Bell Let's Talk Day.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

If you purchase a coffee today from a local shop there is a good chance the cup’s sleeve has an inspirational message that says “You can do it!” or “I believe in you.”

That message was hand written and illustrated by an elementary-aged student or older from both the public and Catholic school divisions.

The Sleeve the Stigma program aims to break the stigma around mental health and sees hundreds of students participate each year on Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada.

Hundreds of students started writing the coffee sleeve messages several months ago while having a conversation around the stigma that surrounds mental health.

“I think having those dialogues is what breaks down the stigma. I think kids understand more about what is mental wellness and that it’s no different than physical wellness as well as overall wellness,” says Patti Wagman, program manager with Community Coming Together. “It’s great to have these awareness days that we have to keep that dialogue going 365 days out of the year as well.”

Wagman says the coffee sleeve messages are a kind and simple gesture meant to brighten someone’s day.

“Talking about how giving to others is good for our mental wellness as well, for sure, and just to know that people are going to receive these and that could really make their day special,” says Wagman.

According to Bell’s website, ‘Let’s Talk Day’ has become the world’s largest conversation about increasing awareness and creating change when it comes to mental health.

Bell says it expects to reach its current commitment of donating $155 million to mental health organizations around the country by 2025.

This year’s campaign is focused on making meaningful action in mental health and bringing awareness to the stigma around mental illnesses, and its theme is ‘Let’s create real change.’

“Despite tremendous progress, real change is needed for Canadians who are struggling with their mental health. We encourage everyone to join us on Jan. 24 and start a year of action to help address the mental health crisis our country is facing,” writes Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of Bell Canada in a press statement.

Dr. Kent Comeau, a psychiatrist who opened Reconnect Health in Medicine Hat last year, told the News that national days that shine the spotlight on mental illnesses are making a positive impact.

“Things have changed. I think society and people are learning a lot more. They’re becoming much more open to sharing as other people share their experiences,” says Comeau. “It just helps keep the momentum going. Without mental health, you don’t really have health. It’s pretty foundational for having quality of life.”

Comeau says breaking the stigma around mental health can often depend on the generation you grew up in as well as the culture and environment you were raised in.

However, Comeau says there is help available and seeking it could have a ripple effect on someone as well as their family and friends.

“Certainly people don’t have control over what they went through when they were younger and the culture and the environment that they grew up in, however you can make the choice to seek help in the now and to make changes and improve and grow and not perpetuate stigma,” says Comeau.

Comeau expects stigma can be overcome as mental health receives more attention from the media.

“I think that our society is kind of waking up … I think the dial is absolutely going in the right direction. And it’s the importance of programs like Our Collective Journey and the work that they’ve done in Medicine Hat, and other organizations that keep talking about mental health, continues to move things in the right direction,” says Comeau.

A list of local coffee shops that have partnered with Sleeve the Stigma program include:

– MT Nest Cafe & Market

– Homestead Market

– Poolhouse Cafe & Roastery

– Cafe Verve

– Copper Leaf Cafe

– Station Coffee Co.

– Country Crumbs Bakery & Cafe

– Minnie’s Eats & Sweets.

– Sun Valley Honda

– Medicine Hat College (common ground)

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