Sharing secrets for wellness

Frank Warren spoke to students about mental health (Photo by: Jessica Dik)
Frank Warren spoke to students about mental health (Photo by: Jessica Dik)

Sharing your secrets with a group of strangers might not sound like a conventional Friday night spent at The Turret, but that is exactly what students at Wilfrid Laurier University did on Feb. 7.

Students were invited to listen to Frank Warren, creator of the internationally famous website ‘PostSecret’, talk about the site’s origins and the impact it’s made on millions of people around the world.

The PostSecret website describes itself as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” Postcards come in from all over the world and Warren uploads the secrets each Sunday to the website.

Secrets can also be found in several published books.

The purpose of bringing Warren to Laurier was to raise awareness around mental health.

“Students will experience at times things that are difficult, things that are challenging and things that are joyful, and that’s just a normal part of the human experience,” explained Adrienne Luft, Laurier mental health and student support team leader. “Part of what we wanted to address and encourage would be … to reach out when you’re having those difficult times.”

Luft, and volunteers of the mental health and student support team, organized the free event. Luft explained that students and staff brought the idea to her because they felt PostSecret fit the theme of mental health awareness on Laurier’s campus.

According to Luft, over 400 students signed up for tickets to attend the PostSecret event, making it a full house.

To make it free for students, the Ross and Doris Dixon Charitable Foundation funded the event. The Foundation aims to support student mental health and wellness through initiatives of Laurier’s mental health strategy.

The student support team hopes an event related to PostSecret will continue for the next few years at Laurier.

“I was extremely excited about the event because we get to talk about mental health and life experiences … The things that excite you and freak you out is a huge part of how you live your life and how you enjoy it,” said Stephanie Torr, a  fifth-year global studies and religion and culture student.

Marie Louise Lariviere, a  third-year psychology student, also felt inspired.

“Someone asked me today what the point of PostSecret was and, as opposed to being a place where you can reveal your secrets, it’s finding a place where you realize you’re not alone.”

At the event, Warren told his own stories of mental health issues growing up. He gave Laurier students advice on how to reveal their own secrets and how to deal with them.

In the last part of the show, members of the audience were able to share their secrets with the crowd. Students shared secrets of abuse, depression and phobias.

Warren explained the event at Laurier, which was part of his North American tour,  was the last in Canada.

“It’s been a great way to end it,” he said. “Not only was it a full house, but also the students were enthusiastic and warm and most importantly, they were really vulnerable and courageous and supportive. I think that’s a great spirit and it really left me with a high.”

Since its creation in 2004, PostSecret has received over half a million postcards from around the globe.

“I believe we all have secrets and everyday we face a choice about what to do with them. Whether to box them up inside us and bury them where we can hide them forever, or to bring them out into the light and share with the people we trust like gifts,” Warren said during his presentation.

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