~si_PurpleCouch, Cynthia

A few years ago Deanna Garton found herself burned out after a career in IT.  The former Nortel employee worked long, stressful hours then ended up being laid off.

Now a second year fitness and health promotions student at Algonquin, as a volunteer, she provided the huge huggable teddy bear mascot at the Purple Couch Event, held at the D building cafeteria on Nov 24.

As she handed the teddy bear over to a student, Garton reflected on what caused her to volunteer with the Purple Couch. She has used the centre herself for disability and mental health issues that have become manageable.

“I feel that people were there for me and helped me, so I should be doing the same thing for other people.”

The AC Purple Couch promotes mental health awareness among students and provides resources to encourage their school success.

Students can sit on the couch and talk to a trained student leader, volunteer or mental health professional.

Bryana Liko, a second-year radio broadcasting student, is one of the promotions co-ordinators for CKDJ and the co-organizer of this event.  When brainstorming ideas, the recurring theme was mental health.

Liko herself has anxiety, which gives her a personal connection to the issue.

A lot of people misunderstand depression or anxiety, and she believes in bringing it out into the open to make people more comfortable and to foster better understanding.

Her advice is to talk about it.

“The biggest thing is to know that you’re not alone,” she said. “It’s the best thing for someone with mental illness to be aware of.”

Braedon Mahew, a volunteer for the event and second-year radio broadcasting student, said the cafeteria was chosen to reach students who may not have heard of the program before.

“It’s getting near the end of the semester and that’s when things get stressful for students,” Mahew said. “We thought that the time was just right.”

There is a history of bipolar disorder on his father’s side of the family, so it hits home for him. He’s seen how it has affected some of his family members.

“With students, in general it is a stressful time,” Mahew said.  “To be there for the student body; to make everybody feel at home, welcome and that everything’s ok is a good message to spread and one that I certainly believe in.”