ROOM WITH A POINT OF VIEW
By NEWS CANADA
Meena was keenly aware of not wanting to overburden her inner circle with talk of the life struggles she was experiencing. When she found out about Big White Wall (bww), a new online mental health service free to Ontarians, it was a welcome solution.
“On Big White Wall, I was able to connect with people all over the world – completely anonymously, monitored and safely – who were sharing my concerns,” she says. “Also, within 20 minutes I was able to receive feedback from a therapist, a professional from bww, who would weigh in with their opinion and be able to flag anything that might be concerning.”
Big White Wall is an online support community designed to help individuals age 16 and up cope with depression and anxiety, as well as social isolation. A doctor may recommend the service but it’s also available without a referral; Ontarians can self-register at bigwhitewall.ca.
Users can connect with others around specific topics or challenges. The site offers guided support courses on topics such as depression, anxiety, weight management and smoking cessation. It also provides an opportunity to display feelings using images, drawings and words to make art that is posted to the Wall and is a particularly useful option for those less inclined to seek in-person support.
“Family and friends can burn out...There’s only so much they can take listening to anxiety, listening to your worries, feeling down,” says Meena. “bww can do all this and it doesn’t burn out.”
Students are also increasingly plagued by, and often ill-equipped to deal with, the stresses of high school and post-secondary education. A recent study indicates that about 20 per cent (and climbing) of Canadian post-secondary students struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental health challenges severe enough to make it difficult to function. It can be a challenge even identifying the need for support and then accessing it.
“Big White Wall is a platform that students like because of the connection to technology, with the capacity to chat and find other resources,” says Janine Robb, executive director of Health and Wellness at the University of Toronto St George campus. “It’s a great tool for someone looking to do therapeutic work on their own. It’s not as stigmatizing as seeking mental health resources.”
At the University of Toronto, students access information about Big White Wall typically from nurses while seeking mental healthcare through an integrated healthcare service. The university also participated in the 2016 to 2017 piloting of the service, an effort implemented by otn.
Big White Wall, which originated in the uk, has been adapted for the Canadian population, and all registration information is safeguarded securely in Canada.
To access Big White Wall, visit bigwhitewall.ca.