Patience, empathy and squirrels – with Tenniel Rock and the NewView Collective – Episode 7

“I think I’ve experience a lot of growth in the past year just by listening to other people’ stories.”

 In this special episode about mental health and mood disorders, Tenniel Rock, manager of the counseling department at George Brown College, explains why sometimes listening and smiling to your colleagues at school can make a huge difference in their mental wellness. Also, Shannon Grant and Lenore Cohen from the NewView Collective talk how is important to care and be happy about the little things in life.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Hello! This is the Dialog’s podcast and I’m your host, Luiz Felipe Lamussi. And today’s episode is going to talk about mental health and mental wellness. Accordingly to the Canadian Mental Health Association over 53% of Canadians consider anxiety and depression to be “epidemic” in Canada. And 75% of first-time mental health diagnoses occur between the ages of 16 and 25. So probably the age of almost every George Brown College Student. That’s why today I’m going to talk with Tenniel Rock. She is the manager of the counseling department here at George Brown.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Okay so, Tenniel…Oh, first thanks so much for receiving me.

Tenniel Rock: Absolutely.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Hello! This is the Dialog’s podcast and I’m your host, Luiz Felipe Lamussi. And today’s episode is going to talk about mental health and mental wellness. Accordingly to the Canadian Mental Health Association over 53% of Canadians consider anxiety and depression to be “epidemic” in Canada. And 75% of first-time mental health diagnoses occur between the ages of 16 and 25. So probably the age of almost every George Brown College Student. That’s why today I’m going to talk with Tenniel Rock. She is the manager of the counseling department here at George Brown.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Okay so, Tenniel…Oh, first thanks so much for receiving me.

Tenniel Rock: Absolutely.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: My first question is, when we see a friend having some kind of anxiety episode or depression episode, what do we do? Because sometimes they don’t think what have or suffering from is enough for looking for counselling. So, what we do when we are in this position?

Tenniel Rock: I think that some of the things that are most important for you to do is actually listen to your friend. There is things like that that you think is so simple, how could this be having any sort of impact? Over a number of years, working with students and working with folks in the community that live with mental health issues on a regular basis, one of the things that helps a lot is to have friends that try to understand, that listen and want to be there for them.

Another thing is that, sometimes what’s most helpful is to have an environment where you’re not talking about your mental health, where you’re just having fun, where you actually do those things that make them feel like maybe I am somebody that deals with mental health but I am also just a person, a young person.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: I’m not just my problems. I’m much more than that.

Tenniel Rock: Yeah, so just being able to do the things you would normally do, have fun together, enjoy spending time together, that’s a way you’re actually helping them with their mental health issues.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Trying to make them to get out of this situation, this empty space of sadness or anxiety?

Tenniel Rock: Yeah! I think you have to be patient if you are friends with someone who lives with mental health, whether it be depression or anxiety. There is going to be some days where they may just drop out on you and not be able to explain to you why they haven’t shown up to things. So I think that patience level and trying to be understanding is what’s going really help out in terms of that person feeling like…

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Empathy.

Tenniel Rock: Yes! Empathy is another piece. Empathy is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to see the world from their perspective. If you’re trying to access patience for your friend, trying some empathy would be helpful with that. Because if you can imagine what it’s like to wake up every single day and have to go about your day-to-day pressures and activities but not really knowing when you wake up on that day what your mood’s going to be like.

It’s incredibly difficult because folks who live with mental health challenges still have to do all the stuff that everybody has to do but they have the added pressure of not knowing where their moods going be out on any given day. So empathy and compassion are key.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Keywords here. And the number of George Brown students accessing counselling services is increasing at GBC. Why is that so? It’s not because more people are having mental health problems, is more due to the awareness around this issue, right?

Tenniel Rock: Well, that’s a good question! I think there is more awareness, there is more discussion about mental health within popular culture. We see a number of athletes and actors and prominent individuals speaking, openly about mental health and well-being, talking about their experiences, I think it’s making a difference.

But I will also add that we can not ignore there is a huge impact, in terms of the sociopolitical contexts: everything from the Trump government that is in place in the US, to recent elections in Ontario with the Conservative government going in, changes and transitions, new things, new perspectives. And I’m not proposing bad or good, that’s up to you to decide! What I’m saying to you is there is a lot of new and there’s a lot of folks not knowing what’s going to happen next. As a mental health professional, I know that that’s an environment where more anxiety, depression and mood disorders flourishes.  So it’s both more awareness and more discussion on the topic of mental health and well being, which is very positive. And we also see just a world of lots more natural disasters, inclement weather, changes in government, changes in philosophy, much more people talking about racism, transphobia, homophobia. So it’s great that folks are coming forward and having this discussions but as a society we haven’t yet figured out how to deal with any of this things, so it’s kind of more questions and concerns than there are answers.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And do you think social media relates to that?

Tenniel Rock: Yes! That can be connected with social media because if any of your listeners have an Instagram and I do and it’s filled with gorgeousness. I follow Jada Pinkett Smith and she is always looking beautiful and doing some exercise. And folks are on there and for better or for worse, it is a part of our human condition to compare.

But I want to talk a little bit if I may, about the recent death of Mac Miller.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Actually I relate a lot to him because he was one year older than me. And I started to listen to him I was 15 and he was 16. I saw in his lyrics a lot of myself. And I was just listening to his last album and the first is so deep. It talks about finding yourself. And his death came from nowhere. After that we look for and we realize that we can see he was struggling with this pressure actually from the Media. Of course he is an artist but they used to compare him to himself and to other artists. And, specially for me is…

Tenniel Rock: It’s devastating! And I know when I heard about his passing, it was hard for me. My perspective is that I get it in how folks can get so deep into despair that the substances become the only way for them to get relief. So I get and respect how folks can find themselves in that dark place. But it is sad for me as a mental health professional because there is help available. And it’s sad that we are losing someone so young.

It is important more than ever to reach out to a friend and is not about needing to be a professional. In fact, we as counselors and therapists, we can’t do it alone, we can not do it without community. We cannot do it without a student turning to another student and just saying “good morning”. Help us to help the community by actually noticing when somebody in your class is not okay and asking them: “Are you alright?” You don’t need to have a Masters Degree to do that, that can make a massive difference.

Never you think that community isn’t really what heals people because therapists and counselors, what we do in the office is important work, but we recognize that people leave our office and go into community.

So, a part of what my team has been doing (at GBC) is, our focus is not just on individual counselling but you see us doing community events and partnering with the SA club by the name of NewView Collective.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: That’s what I was going to talk about next!

Tenniel Rock: Yes! We’ve been partnering with them since the beginning because we believe that student led clubs don’t need to be run by counselors or psychotherapists, students know what they need to do. We can support in the background by offering counselling support for people who need it, pamphlets, information, food, we just fund their stuff, we don’t need to be centered as therapists there. So you will see more of that from my team. And I also want highlight some other things that you might not know about. There is the Black Student Success Network (BSSN), they run a weekly Let’s Talk. It’s on Wednesday from 3 to 5 at St. James. But they were beginning to run programming at Casa Loma Campus and expanding. That’s another environment that you can go with don’t want therapy or counselling. Sometimes you just want to be in a space where you can talk openly with other students. So those are some of the things I would recommend. And what happens is sometimes folks feel more comfortable and in time they decide to make their way to a counselling service. But that’s an appropriate way to access support if even you feel you don’t want to come in and see a counselor.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: After this great talk with Tenniel, I chatted with Shannon Grant and Lenore Cohen. They both founded the New View Collective, one of the support groups Tenniel was just talking about.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Sometimes students think what they are suffering, people think that in general, is not enough for looking for counselling. So, NewView Collective is like a great alternative for that.. First step.

Lenore Cohen: Absolutely. Because a lot of the students that we have coming in are not necessary comfortable signing up on their own terms and just going into that. The process of signing up and going to see a counselor, sitting down and having a one on one conversation can be very intimidating. And it’s also just… Yeah, it’s uncomfortable for students so I think this is a really good happy medium for them specially. Because is a good way to make friends, it’s a good way to find a community. To seek others that are struggling and to say “Oh wow, look! I’m not alone.” Like, you can really see all of the people in that community right in the circle. So, we always used to say like when people say you are not alone, sometimes you look around and you are like “Okay but where are all other people?”

Shannon Grant: You are like: “`Oh that is no one that I know that’s been through anything. So where are these people if I’m not alone?”

Lenore Cohen: Exactly! And so we realized that  you never really know where are all the people are until you seek that community and you seek those people out. And you ask those important questions because that’s how you are going to built that connection and help yourself heal as well.

Shannon Grant: Yeah.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Doing my research on your website I saw that there are people that don’t necessary suffer from any mental illness but go there because someone in their family, someone.. And talking to Tenniel she said that if you know someone that is suffering that you need to have empathy, compassion and patience. So, The NewView is a way to learn how to deal with people with mental illness and mood disorders, right?

Lenore Cohen: I find it so great because no one story is the same. No student went through the same past. So the second we start to share all those different stories, you really really… I open my perspective and I think I’ve experience a lot of growth too in the past year just by listening to other people’ stories. Because I never consider someone was going through this other things because I was so immersed in my on past, you know? So the second you start to listen to other people’s past and see that maybe this is why my co-worker was acting like this the other day. We tend to take everything personal in our everyday lives, and we have to think first that there is something else that person might be going through that we don’t know about. So, we learn that in NewView. And changed my perspective completely and it changing my outlook and the way  that I talked to other people and approach other people. And if someone is talking to me in an aggressive tone, I know from the start it’s not about me. It’s something that they are going through and the best thing I can do for them is to be there. So I can offer for them to open up or I can just be more understanding and be patient. That’s how you learn patience…

Shannon Grant: And we’ve made so many friends just through this initiative because they see what we are doing and instantly says something about us like what we are passion about. And by been open about your passions, what you care about and who you are, you are more likely to attract people that should be in your life. The more honest we are, and true to who we are and if we’re open with all of those things, the right people will flock towards you. And in our society, especially in our generation and our age group, social media is so prevalent. Everybody is on social media and we are all so concerned about our presence on social media. And it causes a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. It’s this new found pressure to be cool and hip in real life. But the one that is a kind of, people are forgetting about true in person connection. And we are not as motivated to actually hanging out and  do things in person and talk to one another. We just pick up our phone and text our friends.. But I think NewView is breaking that a little bit. It is like: “No”, let’s go back and remember what truly matters in life. Which is love and connection. And been honest and vulnerable. Because, in life this days we only celebrate the extraordinary, right? We only respect the extraordinary. Where is the ordinary? Things are kind of dismiss and is not respectful anymore. Everyone wants to be huge, everyone wants to start something new. Everyone wants to be the next thing!

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Be awesome!

Shannon Grant: Be awesome and have more followers and likes. Is about who have more experiences and travels. We celebrate the extraordinary but I think it is important to step back and just appreciate these little things in life. Appreciate sitting with your friend and having a  connection, appreciate open it up. It’s all about the little things!

Lenore Cohen: And people need it without even realizing. They just need that little like… They realized a lot about themselves to when they start to question like “Why you are so happy all the time? Why are you smiling?” And its was like why not?

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: I’m just happy! Actually I’m from Brazil and we don’t have squirrels there. So the first time I saw a squirrel and I was like: ” Oh my god, this is amazing!” And the second time I was like ” I’m going to take a picture!” And I say to everybody here “Look a squirrel!” People respond ” It’s just a squirrel”

Shannon Grant: Yeah! Get excited about the squirrels!

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Yeah, I’m really excited about squirrels!

Lenore Cohen: Don’t let anyone dull that sparkle.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And I saw a raccoon and I was amazed about that!

Shannon Grant: Raccoon is sick. I was actually watching a documentary on raccoons the other day. But that’s another story. And also I have a kitten cat but that’s an entire different story.

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: I think we had an awesome conversation. Thanks so much for  coming.

Shannon Grant: Of course!

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: It’s great to know students have here this space.. They have the counseling department of course, but this space to share their thoughts, their views and what they are struggling with… It’s great to have you here, thank so much!

Shannon Grant: Thank so much for having us, this was great!

Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Awesome, thank you!

That’s all for today folks, if you want to send any feedback, comments or even if you want to talk. I’m talking right now and you are listening, so you can send me a message and I will be glad to read it. It’s really great to connect to someone when we are struggling about something. So, please feel free to connect me at podcast@dialognews.ca. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast at your Itunes app or any other app that you use. That’s all for today, thank you so much! Bye!

Share

Patience, empathy and squirrels – with Tenniel Rock and the NewView Collective – Episode 7