LGBTQ students at University of Windsor open up about mental health struggles
Some University of Windsor students are hoping to change the existing stigma around the LGBTQ community and mental illness.
Students hosted an LGBTQ and mental health themed open mic night at Vanier Hall. On Feb. 16, all attendees were given a creative safe space to talk about the issues they were dealing with.
Students could express themselves through various forms of art. The night began with poetry and singing.
“Our goal is to create conversations about mental health, so the arts are a good way to start those conversations through spoken work or poetry or even music,” said Jessica Fazio, president of Jack.org.
“If we can create a culture where mental health is talked about and is normalized just like physical health it would be easier for everyone,” Fazio added.
This event was in collaboration with Jack.org and the Campus Pride Centre. Jack.org is an organization of young Canadians who aim to end the stigma around mental illness.
Katreena Hadden shared her story through two poems relating to mental illness.
“I had trouble sleeping, so one night I just wrote a poem about it,” said Hadden. “It helps me figure out my feelings and is something that really calms me down.”
She said events like these are inclusive and she does not feel accepted like this anywhere else on campus.
Her message to other people dealing with mental health issues was to find a group that is supportive.
“It is not impossible,” said Hadden. “There is a group out there and you just have to find them.”
Shelby Francis also has mental health issues and found it hard to accept herself because she is among the LGBTQ community.
“It’s hard to deal with. Not many people know, so coming here helps deal with it,” said Francis.
“I started writing music because I felt inspired by what I was going through.”
Francis expressed her thoughts through song.
“It’s really relaxing. No one is going to judge you,” said Francis. “It’s a great place to come out especially if it’s your first time.”
“It’s okay to open up and talk about certain things that might be taboo or might still have stigma around it,” said Courtney Quinn, vice president of Jack.org. “Talking really helps with getting through the journey of recovering.”
All the tables in the hall were covered with paper for attendees to draw on. By the end of the night the papers were covered in colourful vibrant images. A helpline number was also provided for anyone who wanted to talk.