Photo Credit: Samantha Hamilton, Photos Editor
How 2 SMC clubs have come together to foster a safe space and promote mental wellbeing for students
Alessia Baptista, Managing Editor
SMC Wellness and Communicatable are two clubs in the St. Michael’s College community that provide safe spaces for students to openly discuss their mental health and seek resources and support from other students.
The Mike’s Managing Editor sat down with student leaders from both clubs, to learn more about them individually and promote awareness of their collaboration: Talking Circles.
SMC Wellness Interview with Ayanna Sharma, Co-President
- What is SMC Wellness?
We are dedicated to creating safe spaces for students. I think that’s our biggest role on campus with the community at SMC so they have places where they can destress and feel engaged, mental, physical, and spiritual health.
- How does SMC wellness benefit students at SMC?
[We have] Basils cafe every Friday and that is a place to get snacks, hang out, and relax after a long week of classes. We do things like movie nights and other general events to create a sense of community and a place where people can ease their minds after a long day. U of T is a very scary place, especially for first years, so I hope that SMC Wellness makes people feel less alone while being in such a large community.
- What’s the most rewarding thing about being a part of this club?
Seeing people come together. When I started my first year, I didn’t know anyone at UofT. I was scared in first year, and I see other students who are like that. They want someone to help them out, and SMC wellness is a space where they can do that- navigate how University life works. It isn’t meant to be stressful and it isn’t a chore, even for general members. It becomes somewhere where you can do things with others and feel accepted in the community.
SMC Wellness can be found on Instagram, @SMCWellness.
Communicable Interview With Neo Yin and Denzil Boyd
Communicatable is a team with 5 execs- all of which have quirky acronyms for their titles:
Neo Yin: Steward of External Affairs (SEA)
Denzil Boyd: Universal Financial Officer (UFO)
Simran Dhir: Major Operations Manager (MOM)
David Rubenstein: Guide for Projects & Schedules (GPS)
Tim Wang: General Marketing Officer (GMO)
I sat down with 2 execs, Neo and Denzil, to learn more about this initiative:
- What is your club about?
Neo: building communication skills and building relationships with others.
Denzil: We create a place where people can bring their own perspectives and interests to share them with others, to develop our communication skills, and through workshops, people can bring in their own ideas to facilitate discussion.
- Why was this club started?
Neo: Denzil and I hung out during the break virtually, and we talked a lot about building connections and our experiences in the pandemic. There’s an overarching theme that our lives can benefit from good communication and good relationships. Communication and relationships are overlooked and are so important- they’re not formally taught. We want to create a platform for students to develop these skills, [for example,] learning from Masterclass, people who are articulate and good at expressing ideas. Sometimes it may not be about communication, but being present with one another.
- What is your favourite thing about being/leading in this club?
Neo: Actually putting something out there and the students who participated benefit from the event (masterclass, students are inspired as well) and just knowing that you can build something from scratch
- Things that haven’t been done before can be done, it’s a great sense of possibility
Denzil: For me, I really like the ideas we come up with for workshops. Attending the workshops and seeing them come to fruition, talking to group members, and learning about communication.
Communicable can be found on Instagram @Communicatable
A Note on Talking Circles
- What does wellness mean to you?
Ayanna: It’s a very loaded question- I’ve definitely had some low points. The way that I escaped [my low points] was by doing little things like watching movies, I started walking my dog more, joining a club which has changed everything! Wellness is something you can do every day in every capacity to help you feel a little happier and more like yourself in your daily life.
Neo: To me, my personal theory, in connection to talking circles, is that wellness is a harmony between your personal mode of being and the social/otherwise environment around you. For example, if you are an introvert who likes to do independent work, and placed in an extro environment, you’d feel unwell because you lack the chemistry and harmony. If you change your mode of being, it’s better. It’s relationally centered. Not having professional coins but a student group should alleviate the stress of getting help, the harmony in the group will have them better perceive their relationships outside the group. We cannot focus on the therapeutic aspect but we can provide leverage to supporting student wellness.
Denzil: For me, mental health is the ability to pay attention to the right things and not things that are out of line with reality.
- What are Talking Circles?
Neo: Each talking circle is 2 leaders and 6 students who come together on a regular basis to have a safe space to share the challenges they are [experiencing.] The benefit is that students’ wellness challenges is an inbetween of professional, perhaps professional is too much and limited resources, they may not be able to get the support they need. So, talking circles is between regular club activity and prof counseling, focusing on creating a safe and supportive group that does not equal to counselling, but it does a bit more than just hanging out because students can share their challenges. Some groups focus more on mindfulness, [while others just gather to have a casual discussion.] It’s important that everyone feels comfortable talking about wellness and the support they need, referring them to resources if they require help, as a way to break the silence surrounding this topic.
- What impact do Talking Circles have on SMC students?
Neo: The immediate impact is that now we have about 20 students who are now getting consistent support through a peer group, and I’ve heard that students are supportive, and conversations are wellness oriented. We have found that students feel supported and based on the turnout, and the people who keep showing up, it speaks for itself because they don’t have to be there but they continue to engage in the program. Long term, it plants a seed to encourage students to help one another, it’s to leverage resources for students to create resources for students. Talking Circles allocate resources and create an environment where they are aware of resources in a cost-mindful way. [It’s a great face to face wellness interaction to foster conversation surrounding mental health and ensuring students are not alone.]
Intersted in joining Talking Circles? Follow Communicatable on Instagram for more information.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.