Support systems are key when dealing with mental illness. Illustration: Kelsea Shore.
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A thank you to those who make things easier

In the simplest of terms, life is hard.

There are so many great things that the world has to offer, yet it seems that the bad often outweighs the good. It’s nearly impossible to see the positives when it feels like everything being thrown at you is negative, like the universe and everyone in it is out to get you. There are too many factors: School, work, relationships, and everything else that a person attempts to balance. It’s stressful, it’s exhausting, and it’s downright overwhelming.

In a sense, it gets cloudy. It’s like you’re falling apart, as if you’re deteriorating. When it’s the act of living and breathing that gets too hard, it’s nearly impossible to stop yourself from giving in. You start to fade.

When things get dark, one can only be grateful for the people who bring them light.

Thank you to the people that pull us from the bad places that our minds wander to. The people who stick around in moments of weakness, sadness, and vulnerability are the people who give others strength. They are the ones that make things bearable, the ones who ease the pain.

Thank you to our parents, or those who stand in as mother or father figures. Thank you for giving us homes, places to feel safe, somewhere everyday problems can no longer reach us. From early on you’re the ones picking us up, whether it’s from a scraped knee in the playground or getting lost in a crowded grocery store. You’re the ones influencing us to make the right decisions. You’re the ones who are there, raising us, supporting us.

Even though we’re older, and we may fight more, and we act like we don’t need you, you’re still an essential part of our lives. We wouldn’t have become who we are today without you. Although you may not understand all the problems we go through these days, you unconditionally want the best for us.

Thank you to the best friends, the ones we talk to about everything, the ones who have seen, heard, or been a part of every one of our shenanigans. Thank you for the endless laughs, spontaneous adventures, and the time you enjoy spending with us just as much as we enjoy spending time with you. There’s not much that’s comparable to our friendship.

Of course, there are times we fight. When the drama struggles to come between us, you’re still the person we count on. We trust you to hold onto our secrets, to give us the most honest advice, and to empower us. We need you to listen to us, even when it’s not just jokes or gossip anymore, but about the darkness that can start to consume us. You’ll be there for us, you’ll be by our side.

Thank you to our coaches and teachers, the mentors and veterans who guide us. Thank you for challenging us, for showing us the right way, the best way. You provide us with the tools we need to prosper. You give us a place to grow, creating an environment, mentality, and an opportunity to live to our full potential. There are times when we are too tired, too lazy, too discouraged to accept the help, but it never goes unappreciated. You want to help us find success in all the things we desire to do.

Thank you to our teammates, the people who challenge us. Thank you for making it through those tough practices, for sweating, crying, and losing with us. You hold us up in more ways than one. You make us better as athletes, but as people too. We have a bond that others don’t understand, we have the same goals, we face the same hardships, we do it together. From late nights in the hotel rooms to early morning practices, or the pregame speeches, we stay alongside one another.

We want to be the best, we want to compete. When it comes down to it, we make each other better: We want to win together. You push us to be the best we can be, even when you’ve seen us on our off days. You encourage us, congratulate us, and never leave us behind.

Thank you to the boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, the ones who love us in a way no one else can. Thank you for holding us, protecting us from the most terrifying of nightmares and the most damaging of thoughts. You are safety and comfort, confidence and reassurance. When the only thing we can do is hate ourselves, you remind us of all the reasons to do the opposite. When we can’t love ourselves, you do.

Sometimes, you don’t know what the right thing to do is. Sometimes, you have no idea if you’re helping or not. Really, the effort you put in is what counts. It’s more than gifts and fancy dates. It’s more than holding hands or cuddling in bed. It’s the feeling you give us. The love you provide goes a long way.

Thank you to anyone who has given us a tiny bit of joy in the most miserable of times: The smile from that coffee shop employee, or the good morning from that bus driver. When our minds go to the worst of places, sometimes all we need is something small to help us keep going.

There are times where the problem will be too much for us to handle on our own. But when we fall into the depths of self-doubt, anxiety, panic, depression, and whatever else may overcome us, that’s when we’ll be the most thankful.

We don’t always want to reach out—we don’t want to be the ones asking for attention or pity. It’s then that we realize we need these people, that we need their support.

So, to the people that give us light, thank you.

Features editor note: We want to thank each and every one of the sources who took the time to share their experiences with us for this important issue. Some of the stories inside this issue might have been challenging for you to take in as a reader, and that’s completely valid. Seeking help when faced with mental health struggles or a diagnosed mental illness is incredibly important, as is building support networks. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the resources students at the U of O can access both on and off campus. Speaking with your family doctor or connecting with local therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists might also be helpful to you.

On-campus (free or covered by healthcare plan)…

  • University of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS), 100 Marie-Curie Private
    • Offers counselling, psychiatric services, individual, couple or family therapy, access to psycho-educational groups and referrals to specialists off-campus
  • Student Academic Success Service (SASS), 100 Marie-Curie Private
    • Offers individual counselling, peer-counselling, workshops, online therapy and group counselling using new stepped model; referrals
  • Pride Centre, 85 University Private
    • Offers mentoring services and one-on-one consultation services
  • Faculty mentoring centres (locations differ by faculty)
    • Specialized mentoring services catered to the needs of students in each faculty