Laurier hosts mental health awarness event

Drew Dudley explained that mental illness can feel like being “trapped in a web.” (Photo by Nick Lachance)

Despite the frigid temperature, students came out to the Quad at Wilfrid Laurier University Thursday afternoon to hear Drew Dudley, the founder of Nuance Leadership Development Services and motivational speaker, discuss the importance of mental health, specifically from his experiences of living with hypomania bipolar disorder. As one of the guest speakers for the Love My Life: A Walk For Mental Health event, Dudley had an overarching theme dictate the direction of his speech — no matter what situation somebody is in, healing is possible.

And that comes with communicating your situation to those close to you.

“Somehow we think we are a burden and that we don’t want to let them down,” said Dudley about the difficulty with talking about mental illness. He encouraged people to have a network friends and family — those that you “love”, Dudley specified, which didn’t always include family — as a means to communicate their struggles and to seek assistance.

“You don’t have to start by telling everybody,” he told The Cord afterwards. ” I think you have to start by telling somebody that you know who loves you. And doesn’t always mean your parents.”

Dudley didn’t openly address his mental illness until 2007 after he sought help and medication from a psychologist. That particular type of bipolar can elicit periods of extreme energy and confidence, but also moments opposite to that. He noted that mental illness was like “being trapped in a web” and that the “enemy” your mind creates is yourself.

As a result, Dudley experienced thoughts of suicide, overwhelming emptiness and social anxiety.

“The opposite of happy isn’t sad,” he said. “The opposite of happy is feeling empty.”

Dudley told the crowd that he got involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities and was greatly focused immensely on his grades throughout high school. So great to the point that he received various acceptance letters from prestigious universities. That “drive” that Dudley felt continued during his university years.

“I was living my life for someone I hadn’t met yet,” he said, adding that people should be living just to “matter,” not for job prospects, grades or anything on a “list” as he called it. The “list” is all the things dictated by popular society to young people in order to become “successful.”

“I think that it is learned but never explicitly taught,” Dudley said about the “list.”

“I think it makes a lot of brilliant people feel that they’re not. It tells them that your gifts aren’t gifts at all. They’re only gifts if they one day can be monetized. Otherwise they’re just hobbies. And I think that’s a very dangerous thing.”

Dudley pointed out that the system of university education — a time where some do come out to address their mental illness — is flawed.

“Education is the most empowering, important, liberating and really transformative system we have in our society. It is also the most limiting and devaluing at the same time. The system only values one type of intelligence — and that’s the problem,” he explained.

To conclude his talk with his theme, Dudley noted that everyone — even if it’s not classified as a mental illness — should talk about their problems, because everyone can be fighting something internally without showing it. But that’s the first step to healing, he urged.

“We can all heal,” he said.

Love My Life: A Walk for Mental Health continues until 12 a.m. Friday morning. The walk is raising awareness for mental health education and money for Beautiful Minds, a charity that specializes in mental health initiatives.

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