On Jan.28, Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative took place throughout Canada. With over 109,451,718 text messages, phone calls, tweets, and Facebook shares, Bell came through on their promise to donate five cents for each of them and contributed $5,472,585 towards initiating a conversation about mental health issues.
One McMaster student, Cassie Boettcher, took this opportunity to start a conversation in the McMaster community through artwork.
“You could feel the vibrations through campus already, people were tweeting and texting… so it was already on everyone’s mind that this would be the day to tackle this topic,” said Cassie, a fourth-year Sociology student.
Cassie, a painter by hobby, began with a blank canvas and spent the day asking students to dip their thumb in paint and put their thumbprint on the canvas. Each thumbprint represents themselves or someone they know who is affected by mental illness.
By the end of the day, the canvas had over 250 thumb prints, each signifying someone who is struggling with mental illness. Out of everyone asked on that day, only one person didn’t know anyone affected by mental illness.
“There is this interconnectedness,” Cassie explained. “That’s why I love that they overlap. Right there [in that corner] there are 20 people who are suffering.” When asked why she chose the thumbprint, Cassie responded, “The thumbprint is your identity. To me, it’s almost like the painting is holding everyone’s hand. This person probably doesn’t know that person but look what they have in common.”
Cassie’s inspiration for the artwork extends further than the Bell Let’s Talk initiative. “I have a lot of very close friends and relatives that suffer from debilitating mental illnesses. Originally I was going to just do this piece and show them, and say look, we can do this, you are not alone.” Now, the artwork will be auctioned by the Hamilton Health Science Foundation and afterwards displayed at the McMaster Children’s Hospital in the mental health ward.
“I hope this inspires people to feel comfortable talking about it with loved ones or understanding if a friend comes to them that it’s okay to have those conversations,” Cassie said. “But this battle is far from complete – this is just a ripple in the ocean that needs to change.”