MacEwan University students use YouTube channel to shine spotlight on mental health

·2 min read
A small group of MacEwan University communications students created a YouTube channel with a focus on wellness. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)
A small group of MacEwan University communications students created a YouTube channel with a focus on wellness. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)

A project by a group of MacEwan University students is shining a spotlight on mental health.

The fourth-year communications students were asked to come up with a theme build a podcast and YouTube Channel around.

Now the Mind Body Mac YouTube channel is sharing those stories with others.

Instructor Marlene Wurfel, was encouraging of the wellness focus that the group landed on.

"Thinking back to when I was their age nobody was talking about mental health," Wurfel said.

Jamie McCannel/CBC
Jamie McCannel/CBC

"There was so much stigma around mental illness. It wasn't a thing people were talking about. So, it really seems like a different culture when I am talking to this generation about wellness. They're so open and free about it."

The students shared their experiences with depression, eating disorders and the pressures of school, Wurfel said.

It allowed each of the students to process their experiences in a unique way.

"They clearly want to help each other move forward and be better and feel better and less alone. So they really seized the opportunity to connect with each other using this media."

The students' willingness to share gave her hope the conversation around mental health will continue to evolve, she said.

WATCH | Students share mental health struggles

The students said completing the project wasn't easy.

"It was anxiety inducing," said Devyn Pierog. "It was difficult to put my feelings into words. I had never done that before outside of therapy. But it does feel really good to have it out in the open and to not be hiding it anymore."

Jamie McCannel/CBC
Jamie McCannel/CBC

In her video, Pierog shared her experience with depression, which she was diagnosed with in her early teens.

"It was cathartic in a way," she said.

It was the first time Eva Driessan spoke publicly about her battles with anorexia and her now healthy relationship with food through intuitive eating.

"I feel like I'm more comfortable talking about my eating disorder now," Driessan said.

"I think when you show that you're comfortable talking about something and that its normal, that encourages other people to react normally and ask more questions like, how can they be supportive."

The projects were individual so each student could tell their story in a way they saw most appropriate. Due to the pandemic, in-person classes were still limited but at the end of last semester, there was an opportunity for them to gather and share their work.

Jamie McCannel/CBC
Jamie McCannel/CBC

"That was one of the most amazing parts of this project," Driessan said.

"One by one I felt like everyone had something positive to say about every single video … it was just overwhelming. It was such an awakening to me that things are changing. It's OK to talk about mental health."

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