On March 24, a day before Nella Brodett launched the #RamsTalk campaign, she stood on the stage of the Ryerson Sport and Business Conference and publicly spoke about her depression as a student-athlete for the first time.
Since then, Brodett’s initiative for mental health awareness has spread across the Ryerson campus. To her surprise, it not only ignited a discussion at her school, it also sparked a nationwide conversation.
Ryerson students can look forward to #RamsTalk this year on March 25.
For every tweet featuring #RamsTalk, Ryerson Athletics makes a five cent donation collaboration to Do It For Daron (D.I.F.D.), a women’s hockey and youth mental health foundation. Money raised goes to programs to help those living with conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
“Everyone is affected by mental health,” Brodett said. “It is inappropriate for someone to feel sad or out of control. But why? Because it is easier to brush things under the rug rather than address the issue at hand? People are afraid to talk about feelings and emotions that make them seem weaker than others but this is why #RamsTalk is helping.”
Brodett said #RamsTalk has helped people accept mental illness as more than a shameful disease.
“After last year’s campaign the amount of money raised was not the success,” Brodett said. “I received many messages from friends and even strangers who told me their stories and struggles with mental health. This was when I knew #RamsTalk was worth it. … Every person that tweets or participates in these campaigns has the opportunity to save a life.”
#RamsTalk is a spin-off of the national Bell Canada campaign, #BellLetsTalk, which shares the same concept. For every tweet, text message and Facebook post using the hashtag, Bell Canada donates five cents to mental illness programs across the country. Bell’s campaign takes place on Jan. 28 this year.
Bailey Parnell, RU Student Life’s digital marketing assistant for the student affairs creative unit, said hashtags serve a larger purpose of connecting people to conversations they may not otherwise be a part of.
“Because of hashtags you are connecting people to conversations of mental health awareness beyond their followers, their network, their geolocation, beyond everything,” Parnell said.
“When we use hashtags like #BellLetsTalk or #RamsTalk, they open up a conversation where everyone can participate regardless of having been affected with mental illness. When I use that hashtag I am saying, ‘This conversation should be had, you can talk to me about it and I am your ally.’”
According to Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 15- to 24-year-olds have the highest incidence of mental illnesses of any age group.
Parnell said this is because of the constant comparison youth have with social media constantly in their face.
“People only post their highlight reels,” Parnell said. “You are seeing the best parts of their life; their kids, their best trips, the good parts of their relationships, the fact that they just got a job promotion. Nobody is saying I did nothing today. You can’t help to not compare yourself to what you see.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan. 28, 2015.