This first edition of Featured Advocates Month blog posts is written by Aly Bonner. Aly Bonner is a graduating nursing student from Queen’s University. Aly’s time at Queen’s has been spent with a focus on mental health awareness, health promotion, and inclusivity. In 2017, Aly helped found Step Above Stigma with Ampai Thammachack and has been a key member of the organization since its establishment.
When I grew up as a kid I played on numerous sports teams and really admired individuals that emphasized the importance of physical activity to promote adequate physical health and well-being. Throughout high school I ate primarily nutritious meals, received a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night, and completed a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Growing up, I looked forward to finishing school every day in order to hit the field to practice with my field hockey team or my rugby team. At the time, I did not have a thorough understanding of what mental health encompassed and as a result my transition into university was rather challenging.
In September of 2016, I started the next chapter of my life at Queen’s University. I entered the Arts and Science program and knew only a handful of people from my previous high school. Being away from my home, my family, and my friends was more challenging than I anticipated, and I quickly grew homesick. Additionally, adapting to new academic expectations was difficult and enhanced the level of stress and pressure I was exhibiting. When I started at Queen’s I joined an intramural rugby team to keep up with my physical activity but due to the minimal time commitment I wasn’t getting enough exercise and my eating habits had taken a turn for the worse. In early December, just prior to exam season, I was very stressed and eager to get home to my family and friends. While I was home over the holidays, I was introduced to the concept of mental health promotion and its contribution to one’s health. After learning about the topic, I did more research and realized the important relationship that exists between one’s physical and mental health. It quickly dawned on me that my physical activity throughout high school was an outlet for me to relieve my stress and promote positive mental health outcomes. My lack of such outlet in university was contributing to the deterioration of my mental health.
importance of mental health. In February of 2017, I helped Ampai Thammachak make Step Above Stigma a reality. Step Above Stigma aims to raise awareness and destigmatize mental illness, whilst removing the financial barriers that surround mental health resources within Canada. To date, Step Above Stigma has raised more than $25,000 for mental health organizations within Canada and has simultaneously improved mental health awareness. I was very fortunate to be able to work with passionate individuals who want to advocate for mental health. While my time at Queen’s University has now come to an end, I am excited to pass the torch on to new executives who are eager to make change locally and globally. I will continue to be an advocate for mental health and hope to see the more mental health support and resources in the near future. We all have mental health.
Read our blog posts about personal experiences and stories with regards to mental health. Posts written by our team or those passionate about mental health.