Natural Resources student and independent filmmaker Evan Lafford hosted the premier of his documentary Altar in the Sky during Bell Let’s Talk Day at NSCC Strait area campus on January 31.

PORT HAWKESBURY: For the second year in a row, local students took part in a nationwide campaign to open a conversation around mental health.

On January 31, the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus marked Bell Let’s Talk Day with events aimed at raising awareness.

“I think mental health is important for everybody. Every family and every workplace is impacted by mental health issues. So for us as a college, we’ve been pleased to be associated with Bell Let’s Talk Day,” said NSCC principal Tom Gunn.

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“Last year we had a really powerful day and people were excited to do it again. The student association has been a great supporter of this initiative and they provided coffee and muffins and different types of activities that were going on during the day.”

Last Wednesday’s events included a Power of Positivity post-it wall sponsored by the social services class where students could snap photos and post messages to remind others that they are not alone. Bell donated 5 cents to Canadian mental health initiatives for each photo posted on-line with the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Students also received a visit from a St. Johns Ambulance therapy dog, and took part in a talking circle facilitated by Elder Judy Peters.

Photos by Melanie Holder
Michele Tabensky roamed the halls of of NSCC on Wednesday with therapy dog, Maggie Doodle.

Wednesday’s events also included the premier of the film Altar in the Sky produced by NSCC Natural Resources student and independent filmmaker Evan Lafford. The documentary featured an in-depth interview with Nova Scotia-based musician Angelo Spinazzola and his journey through grief following the loss of his brother.

“Angelo Spinazzola did a talk here last year about his brother’s suicide and how he dealt with that, and how he was moved by it, and I wanted to make sure that story was told the right way,” said Lafford.

“I think it was an important project to work on because lots of people go through a tragedy that they have to repair themselves from. I think it’s not only going to help people that are experiencing that tragedy, but it will also help the people around them understand what they are going through.”

Lafford started FromHereToThere films in 2013 and has produced other documentaries exploring topics such as depression and poverty. His documentaries can be viewed on YouTube.

Gunn said that due to icy road conditions, some of the day’s events had to be rescheduled for the following week including a discussion on mental health on campus.

“We’re really developing an NSCC strategy in regards to mental health. So part of the day today was going to be kind of a check-in with students and staff on that, but we’re going to do that next week now,” said Gunn.

Gunn said that although the NSCC has resources in place for students who need help, he believes more could be done for mental health in the community.

“There certainly are some good resources on campus, but we also try to get them to link with their family doctor or with resources in the community. Unfortunately in Nova Scotia, there’s a real lack of resources,” said Gunn. “As a campus, we have the student services team, student service advisors, counselling on-site, and a learning support specialist as well, but ultimately for a lot of family issues, students need to find the support in the community and that’s still lacking.”

Therapy dog Maggie Doodle was on duty at NSCC for Bell Let’s Talk Day. She is seen here visiting with office administration intern Tori Lanceleve.