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The page founders from left to right: Camille Dupuis, Janelle Meikle, Ava Melenchuk. Photo by: Amy Klein

Students use Instagram to take on stigma around mental health

F*ck Ya Let’s Talk builds supportive online community

By Ally Chesham , in City , on December 19, 2020

When three university students from Vancouver got to talking about their mental health, they realized that part of the problem is no one talks about mental health.” So they created a new Instagram account to try to change that.

They launched @fuck.ya.lets.talk on Instagram in July of this year, due to its extreme popularity with young adults. In five months the page has grown a community of more than 2,500 followers and countless personal stories have been shared on the site.

“I never thought that so many people would be so affected by what we thought was just a simple idea,” said Camille Dupuis, one of the page founders. “It’s been heartwarming to see the amount of feedback and people reaching out.”  

The Instagram account was launched by Dupuis and Janelle Meikle, sociology majors at University of British Columbia and Ava Melenchuk, a global developments major at Western University in London, Ont. The three young women, who were all friends prior to starting the account, have dealt with their own mental-health struggles.

“We decided to make an account dedicated to sharing these stories in case other people also wanted their voices to be heard,” said Meikle. “The idea came to us within the first few days of lockdown in March as we knew the added stress of the pandemic would undoubtedly contribute to higher levels of anxiety and depression.”

According to a report by The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health and Children’s Mental Health Ontario, the overall mental health of Canadian youth has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Forty-two per cent of young adults reported excellent or very good mental health during the pandemic compared to 62 per cent in 2018,” the report noted. 

The mental-health impact of the pandemic is being studied all over the world as is the exponential growth in social media use. Canadians are spending much more time online. Forty-one per cent of respondents in a Statistics Canada survey told the agency that they had increased their use of social media and messaging services. These two factors led the trio to initiate their account. 

On the Instagram page, viewers can find submissions from all three young women describing their personal experiences with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and Tourette’s syndrome.

“I always said how I wanted to post about my Tourette’s and my journey with mental health because I was tired of how mental health is shown in the media”, said Meikle. 

“We are working toward reversing a stigma that has created an unnecessary struggle for those who need help,” said Dupuis. 

Meikle believes their personal approach offers something different to young people.

 

Fuck Ya Let’s Talk Instagram page (the submission form link is included in their bio)

“I felt like there wasn’t really a platform like ours where young university students are sharing their biggest life struggles so openly,” she said. “The fact that you can associate our faces with the page and know who runs the account makes it feel much more personal for our followers, rather than if it was an initiative started by a major corporation.

The approach seems to have struck a chord. People post their comments and questions and open up about how they feel.  

Emily Propp took to the account to talk about her experience with anxiety and perfectionism. 

“It can be so easy to isolate yourself when struggling with mental health issues and I truly believe this account is reducing the stigma and spreading awareness one post at a time.”

Chanel Walter posted her story on living with bipolar 1 disorder after seeing a friend of hers had also shared.

“Being open about your mental health only brings good things,” she said. “I got a few inspiring messages after doing so and it was an empowering experience posting on the account.”

 
Contributors can send in their stories anonymously or choose to be identified

The outpouring of support and positivity from contributors like Propp and Walter has been an extremely fulfilling  experience for the students they say.

“The most rewarding thing I’ve gotten out of the account is that complete strangers, as well as people I’ve known my whole life, tell me they’ve never been able to relate to someone’s stories the way they have through our posts,” said Mekile. 

Dupuis, Meikle and Melenchuk hope their followers  continue to use the account as a safe place to be open and vulnerable. They plan to continue to grow the page and eventually build their own website.

“Keeping an open conversation going is the key to normalizing, because something so human should never be frowned upon,” said Dupuis. 

“I really hope that people get from our page that it’s okay to not be okay,” she said. “Seeing real and raw stories and other people being so open and vulnerable is so inspirational and I hope that it gives people the courage to be more comfortable talking about mental health.”