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A fourth-year UNB student speaks out in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jan 28, 2020

Category: myUNB , UNB Fredericton

Cormac Stewart is working on finding balance. The fourth-year student at UNB Fredericton has a busy schedule filled with clubs, classes and friends, but he always takes time to check in with his emotions.

Mr. Stewart is co-president of the UNB Mental Health Association. Together with his co-president Kate Metcalf, they lead students in discussion regarding mental health issues and raise awareness about related concerns.

On Jan. 29, Mr. Stewart will join millions of Canadians in marking Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual fundraiser that recognizes the importance of talking about mental health and the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“It’s something that hits close to home. A lot of my family and friends have been affected by mental health issues. But it affects everybody, and I don’t think it’s been taken as seriously as it should be for something that has such a big impact.”

Mr. Stewart has dealt with anxiety and balancing his busy life. When first coming to UNB, he felt homesick and placed high standards on himself and in his studies. He sought out more formal mental health support, such as the university’s Counselling Services and residence proctors, but says the UNB community has also provided significant support through its embracing atmosphere.

He feels there’s room for improvement, though.

“For a long time, there’s been a culture, particularly for men, that it’s not cool to show emotion. That being ‘tough’ is admirable in some way. Slowly that belief is changing,” he says. “It’s important to have these conversations with your guy friends, to let them know you’re there for them, and to be open if you’re struggling. There’s nothing cool about bottling it up.”

Although Mr. Stewart feels this culture is more prevalent with men, he understands the stigma surrounding mental health impacts everyone regardless of gender.  Mental health is still feared and misunderstood by many people, but the fear will disappear as we continue to share and allow others to learn from our stories.

Mr. Stewart sees the change firsthand, noting more male students are joining the ever-growing association. A major focus of the group is finding time to reconnect with your emotions.

“It’s easy to get so overwhelmed, especially in a new school or city, that you forget to make time for yourself. It’s important to be able to check in with yourself, navigate your emotions, and ensure you’re happy.”

Society is shifting how it views mental health and equates its importance with physical health. And while the conversation is much more open than it’s ever been, Mr. Stewart recognizes there are still misconceptions surrounding mental health and mental illness that should be addressed.

“People often think what they’re going through isn’t ‘worthy’ of counselling, but anyone can use counselling services and should know support is there,” he says. “And when something is actually starting to impact your daily routine and impede your life, you should consider getting professional help. It will make a difference.

“Mental health is just as crucial as physical health. Your mind needs a checkup just like your body does. And remember that you’re not alone.”

Like Mr. Stewart, everyone at UNB has their own personal journey. Through #WeAreUNB, community members are telling their stories.

Media contact: Paisley Sibbald