Queen's, Bell host annual mental health lecture

Queen's, Bell host annual mental health lecture

By Michael Beleza, Manager, Communications and Marketing, Advancement

June 17, 2016


More than 150 Vancouverites including many Queen’s alumni recently attended the fourth annual Bell Let’s Talk Lecture at Simon Fraser University Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

[Heather Stuart delivers her lecture]
Heather Stuart, Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Bell Let’s Talk Lecture in Vancouver. Her presentation focused on steps people can take to end the stigma around mental health. (Photo by Rick Etkin)

The Breaking the Silence Lecture is aimed at raising awareness about mental health and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Queen’s Professor Heather Stuart, Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, was the keynote speaker. Her presentation focused on the five simple ways each person can play a role in ending the stigma around mental health issues. Dr. Stuart’s research concentrates on understanding the experience of stigma from the perspective of those directly affected by mental illness and their families.

“We need to change the way people think about mental illness. We must end the fear and prejudice so those affected will be treated fairly and without stigma,” Dr. Stuart says. “The more we openly talk about mental illness, the more people’s attitude will change. These conversations are important and must happen more often.”

The event was hosted by CTV Vancouver’s Tamara Taggart and featured former CFL linebacker and two-time Grey Cup Champion Shea Emry.  After suffering a concussion in 2011 that put him out for the remainder of the football season, Mr. Emry found himself battling problems from the past. Negative self-talk, isolation and an intensifying self-consciousness drew him back into the depressive state he had known as an adolescent, having been the victim of extreme bullying during his childhood.

[Shea Emry delivering his talk]
Former CFL player Shea Emry shared his mental health experiences with audience members at the lecture. The Bell Let's Talk Ambassador founded Wellmen, an organization dedicated to helping men live enriched lives through radical experiences in the outdoors. (Photo by Rick Etkin) 

However, in early 2012, Mr. Emry was inspired to leverage his position as a professional athlete as a platform to share his story with youth, inspiring self-care and conversation concerning wellness and mental health. His mission to unmask masculinity begun. The founder of Wellmen, he uses his platform as a former professional athlete to talk to people about mental health issues and is currently a Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador. 

The evening concluded with a panel discussion where the floor opened for attendees to pose questions to either Dr. Stuart or Mr. Emry. Tom Harris, Vice-Principal, Advancement, and Mary Deacon, Bell Let’s Talk Chair, were in attendance and provided opening remarks.

“Bell Let’s Talk is very pleased to work closely with Queen’s University to support anti-stigma research and mental health awareness, including funding the world’s first chair in anti-stigma research,” Ms. Deacon says. “The annual Breaking the Silence lecture helps broaden the discussion around ending the stigma of mental illness, which remains the biggest barrier for people seeking help.”

In February 2012, Bell announced a $1 million donation to Queen’s over five years to create the Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair. The funding allows Dr. Stuart to focus her research on developing and disseminating best practices to reduce stigma. Historically, studies of mental health stigma focused on the beliefs held by the general public. Dr. Stuart has been working to understand the experience of stigma from the perspective of people who have a mental illness.

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