In between January and March 2017, the University of Waterloo experienced two deaths by suicide by first year students. It became evident that the school needed to talk about mental health and how it affects its' students. I met with a few students at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University to hear their stories and how they deal with mental health issues as students.
Megan M sits in her dorm on the University of Waterloo's St. Jerome's campus
Megan experiences panic attacks, seasonal affective disorder and anxiety. "If I have a problem, I will do everything I can fix it. So having been asked ‘why are you this way’ I’m like, ‘If I knew, I would fix it’". March 2017
E.L. stands in a local park in Waterloo, Ontario in April 2017. E.L believes she has borderline personality disorder. She only recently started to see a counsellor at the university. "I felt lonely growing up because of mood instability. So I resorted to self-harm. It felt like I could drop everything and I could focus on one feeling which was physical, instead of the inner emotions which were harder to deal with and control. No one ever just does things. You can’t analyze surface level things. There’s probably something deeper going on with someone." April 2017
Kyle M. sits on his bed in his room in Waterloo, Ontario. During his last year of university he experienced depression and mental exhaustion. "The one thing I regret in the way I treated myself is that I didn’t tell others. There were only a few people I told about it, so by the time I walked into work I had to put on a face. I had to say, “Everything is fine” but then when I would walk out the door I realized I bottled up my thoughts for 8 hours. That was the worst thing... is that I never admitted to people that something was wrong. I didn’t think I could turn to many other people for that support." April 2017
B.G. stands in her kitchen in Waterloo, Ontario.
B.G stands in her kitchen in March 2017. B.G was diagnosed with depression but found it difficult to talk about especially in her engineering program at the University of Waterloo. "The culture of UW engineering is very much a culture of superiority. They think very highly of themselves. The reputation is both good and bad. It’s made it difficult to admit that I failed a term. I know I shouldn't be ashamed of having failed or ashamed of not understanding something in lecture and going to a professor. I know the professor is not going to yell at me, but I feel like an idiot when I have to ask something that turns out to be very simple." March 2017
K.J. stands for a photo in his building's stairway in Waterloo, Ontario.
K.J discovered he had mild depression and anxiety in his second year of university. "I probably should have taken a year off before coming here. All the responsibility and taking care of myself is something I didn’t get too much exposure when I was in high school and a kid. It was difficult to get the hang of being independent and a lot of it hit me really fast and I never got a chance to recover. School does a decent job with reading weeks but for me it just didn’t help. It was a lot at once." April 2017
D.M. enrolled back at the University of Waterloo after dropping out in 2010 due to depression and stress.
"Personally for me, the first time I went, the difficulties I had didn’t start at university but they were compounded with the competition and standards I had to meet at 18 years old. The university doesn’t take into account the nuances of humanity. The university isn’t a person-centred institution. It’s based on things that build up a company." March 2017
Nick O. lies down in his bed in his dorm at the University of Waterloo
Nick O came to university knowing he struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. He had a difficult time adjusting in his first year of university. "At times, we may be fragile but that is not to say we are fragile all the time. There are times we may feel broken, but we are not broken. There are times where we feel like nobody cares about us, we need to feel either cared for or validated. We are not a project but at the same time we are not a small child that you must hide from the horrors of the world. Treat us like a person who needs help." March 2017
Grace C. sits for a portrait at the University of Waterloo's campus of St. Jerome's.
“Don’t undermine how I’m feeling. That’ll only spike the anxiety and that makes me frustrated. You’re not validating me, you’re just making it seem like I’m having unnecessary feelings and thoughts. Don’t undermine it." March 2017
Evy K. stands in her bathroom at her home in Waterloo, Ontario.
"Brains just do things sometimes that are hard to control. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that. Even if you’re not feeling sad or anxious, you’ll just have thoughts that are sticky and it’s not as serious as a lot of mental health things, but sometimes your brain will be a certain way and there’s not much you can do about it. If you’ve thought a certain way for a long time, it can be hard to change the pattern in your brain to think in a different way. You can’t think different thoughts suddenly. Brains are really complicated." April 2017
Megan LaRonde was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder while in university.
"The UW is a prestigious university that is known for producing incredible minds and known for being an incredibly academic place. You definitely feel that when you go there and when you start and I think that’s a big pressure that students put on themselves to keep up to the caliber that is the University of Waterloo. It’s such a change from high school from the way you take classes and the way you study. Everything gets completely changed. I think that’s a big pressure."
"Awareness is great but we’re all perfectly aware of mental health, thank you very much. It’s time to stop just making people aware and it’s time to start with the acceptance. If everybody is talking, nobody is listening. I think that’s the university's biggest problem. They are so busy talking about mental health and they aren’t listening. " April 2017
In between January and March 2017, the University of Waterloo experienced two deaths by suicide by first year students. It became evident that the school needed to talk about mental health and how it affects its' students. I met with a few students at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid L...