The University of Waterloo has seen tragedy this year with students taking their own lives, succumbing to pressures and their own poor mental health, which has rocked the student body and faculty. This might be why one of the professors decided to leave out a number of handwritten notes for her students and encouraged them to take on as they left class one morning. Vanessa Lam, a Ph. D candidate at the University of Waterloo, wrote about 70 notes for students in her classes. Decorated with stickers and containing uplifting and affirming messages they also included her contact information and some even had packets of tea.
Lam said she wrote the notes because she has struggled with her own mental health. “I’ve been through the ringer when it comes to hospitalization and social services … I’ve just been through it,” she said. “If part of what I do helps somebody else through that very difficult time, then I’m very happy.” She said the idea for the notes goes back several years to when she would think about how it would be nice if someone simply asked her how she was doing or did something to let her know they were thinking about her.
One student needed exactly such a gesture. Her name is being withheld to respect her privacy and it truly isn’t required to understand the importance of this interaction as it could be any student, or person in your life, who was struggling when a kind act changed things. This particular student happened to attend Lam’s class and picked up one of the notes because she thought it was cute. When she opened it up and ready the message inside; “When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.” It truly struck a nerve as she had recently been contemplating suicide. She had been struggling with being away from home and with keeping up with her courses and had felt isolated with no support. She had not reached out to friends or family and as of her interview with the CBC for your Good News Story of the Day her parents still did not know how bad things had become.
It is so important to reach out to those around you and ensure they are okay, encourage them when and how you can, even the simplest gesture can make a difference. Even if it is just a little letter. According to the student “The letter made me realize that there is hope and maybe life has more to offer than sadness and struggles.” She shared the note and her story on Reddit and found a rush of support and interest, her story meant something to many people. As for the student? She is finishing up final projects and exams. She says she’s also receiving additional mental health support. “I am in a better, healthier state of mind now than I was, like, a week ago,” she says. She says she wasn’t anticipating the response the Reddit post received. And she wanted to share her story in hopes it could help others who may be feeling the same way.
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Story and Image from CBC.