The four interconnected #’s act as a visual symbol of solidarity in response to the recent tragedy that occured once again at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. This campaign was created by the University of Toronto (hereby UofT) Mental Health Policy Council (UTMHPC); How Many Lives (HML); Ashwini and Loizza, 2 of 24 founding members of UofThrive; and Healing Hearts Through Art (hh2art).
The # symbol has four meanings:
The first is the number. Most immediately, it represents the fact that there have been four on-campus suicides in the last sixteen months. It embodies the pain and suffering of students who feel like just a student number. The numbers and statistics are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mental health crisis on campus. The link here outlines some numbers (least to greatest) in the last several days and months.
So, I ask, after reading the numbers linked above: Are we really Boundless, UofT?
The second is the channel. The # is known for its predominance in computer programming. The # is used in bash command lines / shell; in commenting; in markup documents; and in many other ways in various programming languages. It is also used to indicate channels on Discord (a social media platform for communication used largely by the gaming community) and Slack (the "professional" version used by various groups to organize spaces for discussion about various topics), which are spaces in which computer scientists work and play. This all calls to mind members of the computer science community and the work that they do; the dreams they pursue; the people they have lost; the people that they are. As more people wear it, we hope that it will become a symbol that we are IN SOLIDARITY of the community members that we have disproportionately lost in these tragedies.
The third is the pound. The # is representative of the pound key on a dialer. You can call your mom, dad, parent or guardian. You can call a friend. You can call a mentor. You can call a teacher, a staff member, a professor, an administrator. You can call your local political candidates and representatives. You can call on the government to take action. You can call a helpline. You can even call a stranger—to ask for help, to offer a connection, to invite them to join you in action. You can call for support. You can call for change.
The fourth and final meaning is the hashtag. We will be using the four hashtags #HowManyLives, #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs, #OurLastChoiceUofT, and #AnywhereButBahen to raise awareness about this issue and begin online discussions about mental health and suicide. We call on the larger UofT, Toronto, GTA, Ontario, Canadian—and, dare we say, global—community to make this viral. We need to begin talking about mental health. We need to start listening to each other more meaningfully. We need to start noticing when people say or do things that may indicate that they may need support. We need to stop the stigma around mental illness. We need to change the story around mental health and suicide. This is a mission we must all embark on—together.
By wearing the symbol, you are taking action and showing support towards demanding more efficient mental health supports for students—and indeed, for everyone. We also encourage you to show your support by drawing the symbols onto yourselves, as a small but bold show in solidarity. Doing so reminds us to refuse to allow our outrage to fade back into complacency; to continue to remain visible; and to take action until meaningful and sustainable change is made for our communities’ mental health.
You can get a symbol by attending any of the upcoming events of the UofT Mental Health Policy Council, How Many Lives, UofThrive, and Healing Hearts Through Art or by drawing or creating one yourself as you feel comfortable. You can follow the UTMHPC on Facebook, as well as How Many Lives, UofThrive, and Healing Hearts Through Art.
Thank you and please remember that you are loved and that you are not alone. And that you are here on this beautiful planet and alive. And that you are you—and that’s enough.
This statement was began by Angela Medina on September 28th and completed by Aloysius Wong in the early morning of October 3rd. It was revised and finalized on October 5th with the help of Angela Medina and Christeen Salik. The logo was designed in collaboration between Aloysius Wong, Mercer Pommer, and Andrew Longo from September 28th–October 5th. The idea of the #’s was created through a conversation between Angela Medina, Lucinda Qu, and other organizers of the U of T Mental Health Policy Council on the afternoon of September 28th.