Anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, grief and the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health are among the topics that will be discussed in a new University of Guelph podcast series featuring personal stories from faculty, staff and students.
Called The Shine Cast, the series will launch on Jan. 28, Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day focused on encouraging Canadians to talk openly about mental health.
Hosted by U of G’s Wellness Education and Promotion Centre, The Shine Cast is an interview-format podcast series featuring conversations with members of the U of G community about mental health and mental illness and how to take care of ourselves and thrive.
“When the Wellness Education and Promotion Centre moved to virtual with the rest of the campus, we wanted to find a new way to reach folks and talk about mental health within the University of Guelph community,” said Rebecca Skelhorn, the centre’s wellness educator. “A podcast seemed like the best way to do that.”
In each episode, guests such as U of G student Sonia Catalli, who is studying biology and psychology, and U of G staff member and alumna Katie McLean, coordinator of neighbourhood relations and off-campus living, share their mental health struggles and successes.
“We’ve tried to keep the topics broad enough that any staff, student or faculty would enjoy listening and gain something from the podcasts,” said Skelhorn.
Catalli said she will share her experience living with anxiety and depression, explaining how it has affected her school life, relationships and personal identity as a queer person.
“I will also share how getting involved with the organization Jack.org helped me find my voice and become an advocate for mental health and illness,” said Catalli, whose wellness routine includes drawing and colouring, listening to music and attending regular talk therapy sessions.
“It is important for me to share my story and let others who may be struggling know that they are not alone,” she added. “I want to be part of a positive dialogue surrounding mental health. I am in the midst of my mental health journey and still have bad days, as we all do. But becoming an advocate through volunteering in my community has allowed me to see that having a mental illness does not have to limit you in any way.”
In the first episode of The Shine Cast, McLean shares her story about anxiety and panic attacks.
“As a psychology student, and now a psychotherapy student, it has always been interesting to me to gain a deeper understanding of my own mental health. In the podcast, I talk a bit about my understanding of self and how I think others can benefit from some of the skills I use, like breathing exercises, mindfulness and gratitude practices.”
Her experience of anxiety left her feeling very much alone, she said. Finding no stories that paralleled her own online, she created the website Anxious and Alive to provide a platform for those stories to be shared.
“I also think one really powerful way of reducing stigma is by owning our own challenges and not being scared to share them,” she said. “In my story, you hear elements of acceptance, resilience and a lot of growth through about 10 years of experiencing anxiety. I hope people will hear that it does get better, but that anxiety may be a companion throughout your life, and that’s okay and manageable too.”
McLean said a deep sense of gratitude has helped her accept that anxiety can coexist with joy.
“Practicing gratitude allows me to see the positives in any circumstance or time period, without becoming toxically positive and neglecting my very real feelings,” she said. “The benefits of being grateful for what I have become glaringly obvious throughout the COVID pandemic and they have helped me focus on what is important to me.”
Skelhorn said The Shine Cast project resulted from trying to find creative ways to connect with and support the U of G community through the pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health in a variety of ways, and so we would have been remiss to not talk with our guests about their own experience of navigating mental health in this ever-changing world. We hope that in this time of increased social isolation, our listeners will gain a sense of connectedness and comfort from hearing these stories.”
Listeners can find The Shine Cast on most podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. After the first episode airs on Bell Let’s Talk Day, subsequent biweekly episodes will be released until the end of the winter semester.
As part of Bell Let’s Talk Day, U of G Wellness@Work will host a keynote speaker for faculty and staff on Thursday, Jan. 28, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Renowned psychological health and safety expert Dr. Joti Samra will share strategies that support mental well-being. This event is open to faculty, staff, post-doctoral researchers, sessionals and graduate student employees at the University of Guelph.
Register for this event in advance. Registrants will receive more information on how to connect to the live event. Dr. Samra asks registrants to fill out her scoping survey before Wednesday, Jan. 20.
For more information on this event and other training sessions available on Bell Let’s Talk Day, visit the Wellness@Work website.