Pulse 2016: All You Need to Know

“Mental health is tricky because its about really knowing who you are and being able to say that you need help in a surrounding where you think so many other people are stable.”-Sophia Shim

Needless to say, it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with mental health is coming to terms with the fact that no one is invincible. On the outside, we may seem on top of everything, put together, ahead of the game and confident, but on the inside, no one knows how we truly are feeling. Coming to the realization that we must take care of our minds as much as we take care of our bodies is something that society has not come to terms with yet. We’ve seen the major changes that things like the introduction of the Health & Wellness centre at the University of Toronto, as well as the addition of Mental Health Awareness Month – and it’s about time. More and more students seem to catching on to the progress that the university has made. “On campus there are many options if you are in need of help, whether it be provided by your college or UofT as a whole”, says second year student, Sophia Shim.

One initiative, founded by Joanna Huang and Michael Bray of the University of Toronto aims to create a sense of community in the Toronto student population and encourage discussion about mental health in the GTA. Pulse, founded in 2013, has fundraised for three years to bring attention and create a positive space for discussing mental health in our community. “There is nothing I am more passionate about as I am mental health. It’s an issue that touches the lives of everybody, in one way or another.”, says Joanna, “The entire topic is muffled. It’s blanketed by a thick layer of societal stigma, and completely devalued. People don’t talk about it. I’ve struggled with my own mental health, and I find it very difficult to talk about. But I have no trouble talking about a sprained foot, so why should this be any different?”

Since it’s founding, Pulse has been partnered with Oolagen, a Toronto based organization who’s mission is to “listen, engage, assist, and empower young people to recognize their own strength and values”. Located on 65 Wellesley Street East, Oolagen provides counselling services for all ages and provide residential homes for people aged 14-18. Oolagen also provides on site school support in for three different Toronto high schools, giving students access to mental health services when they cannot otherwise. “[Ooolagen is] also planning to expand their services to cover university-aged youth”, says University of Toronto Pre-Medical co-president Alissa Mirochnitchenko. The Pre-Medical Society is partnered with Pulse as one of their main supporters on campus.

Pulse is on the 18th – get your tickets at www.pulsetoronto.com

Both Oolagen and Pulse are promoting mental health and discussion to Toronto, and have been gaining momentum ever since their start. “Pulse 2015 has raised over $2000.00 for Oolagen… This year, we will strive to surpass our previous earnings and continue to further increase awareness for mental health!” says Pre-Medical Society Co-President Victoria Malysmiuk. On March 18, Pulse and Oolagen are partnering again to bring an amazing fundraiser to Orchid Nightclub. As the campaign’s slogan states, “Good music. Good company. Good cause”, it’s sure to be a fun evening for an important charity. “We hope that our annual fundraiser, Pulse, remains a reminder for individuals to critically think about their own mental health and seek help if they feel out of balance.” Says Victoria and Alissa.“I think that my biggest goal this year was to make the discourse around mental health positive- we are all students and we all understand that university can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. In my eyes, events like PULSE are important because it brings students together to have positive, happy experiences.”

Additional information about Pulse, Oolagen, and this year’s charity fundraiser can be found at the following sites:




We hope to see you on the 18th!

RECAP: U of T Receives $114 Million Grant for Regenerative Medicine

As you might have heard back in late July, our university has received a record-breaking amount of funding from the federal government in order to establish a groundbreaking centre for regenerative medicine. Now that it’s time again to begin school, a lot of students are asking, what exactly is this all about? Continue reading “RECAP: U of T Receives $114 Million Grant for Regenerative Medicine”

Why Jackie Brown is Seriously Underrated

Jackie Brown movie poster (1997)

Most people have heard of Quentin Tarantino – the genius mind behind films like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Kill Bill I and II. Tarantino’s style of directing is one that many people love – his glorification of violence, satirization of serious topics and non-linear narrative define his new genre of film combining concepts from great historical films to cheesy little known works. He’s often considered one of the greatest directorial minds of our time, as he is not afraid to push boundaries and always crafts something completely original and exciting. He’s a film buff’s dream and never ever falls short of perfection.

Now most of us have seen his amazing and popular films like Resevoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds, but my all time favourite Tarantino film is one that came out in 1997 called, Jackie Brown. I seriously love this movie. I watch it at least once a week and every time I reel in it’s perfection.

Like all of Tarantino flicks, there are tons of amazing movie stars depicted in relatable and real world ways, but the main difference in this movie is that the main characters were actually washed up actors that nobody had taken notice to in in years. The title character, Jackie Brown, was played by the amazing Pam Grier. In the 70’s Grier, starred in many Blaxploitation movies, which were overtly sexual and would now be considered a Black stereotype. During that time, she was widely renowned as a sex symbol, but after the fall of the popularity of Blaxploitation movies and the end of disco, her career soon fell flat. Her male counterpart, was played by Robert Forester. He was in two acclaimed supporting roles that got him quite noticed in the late sixties, in Reflections in a Golden Eye and The Stalking Moon. After he took a few TV roles in the seventies, his career had dried up as well.

The premise of the film is essentially how Jackie Brown, a middle aged flight attendant, is caught for smuggling money and drugs into US for her arms dealing boss, Ordell Robbie (Jackson). In order to avoid jail time, she begins working with the police in order to bring in the rest of the money Robbie has stashed in Mexico. She brilliantly plays the police and Robbie against each other in order for her to get out, and get out fast – but not without the help of her trusty compadre Max Cherry (Forester), a bail bondsman. I know that may not sound too exciting but the film is such an amazing throwback. It is in the style of a Blaxploitation film but is so unique because it has elements of modern society in it as well. The music is amazing and each scene is brilliantly crafted, it is such a joy to watch. I find it captures reaching middle age in a way we usually don’t see in Hollywood cinema.

Tarantino prodded the two out of their early retirement and set them among an amazing cast of Samuel L Jackson, Robert de Niro, Michael Keaton and a young Chris Tucker. The movie didn’t set the box offices on fire, but it did alright, even with it’s star studded cast. This is also seriously one of my favorite de Niro performances, right up there with Cape Fear, Awakening and Goodfellas. He plays a bumbling, middle-aged, ex-con who is just getting back into the game. It’s an unusual role for de Niro, who is usually given roles of power, but in this film he’s just Robbie’s (Jackson) friend and hired help.

I’m not sure what gives this movie it’s magic and lasting ability to make you think – the lead actors are fantastic, Jackie Brown is able to convey her feelings with just one expression – it’s all in her eyes and her subtle expressions. Forester is a great counterpart whose depiction of an aging, humble man allows for a lot of connection. The film also has a lot of appropriate twists and was just so real and honest. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but usually in a heist movie there is one big main conflict during the heist – the characters get over it and blah blah blah the movie ends. But in Jackie Brown, there are so many little things that go wrong (some of them you may miss when you first watch) and Jackie handles them with such authenticity, it is a joy to see her tackle a load of obstacles. The theme of girl power is common with this film as well as many others.

This film revitalized Grier’s and Forester’s careers, as well as made Bridget Fonda a household name after her success in The Godfather Part III. Even Samuel L Jackson stated this movie as his favourite Tarantino movie. So far, it’s up there on my list too. I think the real reason it’s not as well known as his other films is because of the lack of star power in the lead roles – but their performances are anything but lacking. It’s subtle, creative and exciting – just an amazing honest depiction of a woman’s struggle to make it in this world. So go home, get on Netflix, and watch Jackie Brown – sucka.

Short Story: The Year of Change

What was that sound? Maybe it’s it again, but Dr. Porter just said to ignore it. It’s probably nothing. It hasn’t spoken to me in a while, which is nice. Gives me a lot of room to think for myself, and I’ve had a lot of thinking to do since mom decided it was time to move. I’ve always liked it here in Parkdale, it’s quaint. I gaze outside the window and see the all the people in the street. People walking to work, people walking with friends, young and old. I wonder what they’re thinking and where they’re going. I wonder about their jobs and their personal lives and the moments that defined their characters.

“Hey, Roe, did you take your meds?”

I turn around and see my mother. She’s a frail woman, and she’s been looking even more gaunt since all this started. She looks tired today. Her long brown hair is tied in up a messy bun and she’s carrying a large box. “Come ‘ere. I wanna show you something.”, she croons.

I walk over to the box. It’s filled with photo albums and children’s books and baby toys. I pick up a pair of bronzed baby booties. “Can you believe you were ever that small?” she asks, smiling and patting my back. She picks up a framed picture. There are three people sitting in front of an emerald coloured background. There’s a young woman, wearing a green dress with short brown hair holding a baby. She looks so happy, so youthful and vibrant. Her smile is encapsulating; the happiness she is so effortlessly exuding is something that I’ve been searching for my entire life. The man in the picture looks just as happy as the mother does. He has brown scruffy hair and you can barely see his blue eyes because of his huge smile. He looks nice. I wish I could have met him.

“This was about a month after you were born.” she says to me. ”Your father was so excited.” She stares at the picture for a few more seconds. She smiles, but her eyes still look sad.

“I like that dress.” I tell her.

She laughs. “I still have that, you know. Roe, you need to take your meds.” She walks over to the kitchen and grabs the pillbox.

“Here.” She says softly as she hands me the tiny white circle and a glass of water. She rubs the back of my head as I swallow.

My father had the same problem I do, but he waited until it was too late to do anything about it. I used to think that I was going to end up like he did, but for the first time in a while, I feel hopeful.

“This is the year of change.” She says triumphantly, as she puts the glass in the sink. “New you, new me, new house, new job…” she pauses and trails off. “You’ll love it in Newmarket, I’m telling ya.” She stares outside the window at the people below.

“How’s, um, how’s everything?” she asks, still staring out the window.

“Good. I haven’t heard anything from it in a while.” I pause. “It’s, uh, it’s just me in here.” I smile and point to my head. She looks at me and smiles back.

“Great. That’s just what I like to hear. I think you’ll really like your new school too, they have a great arts program. You’ll love it.” She sounds like she’s trying to convince herself more than she’s trying to convince me.

“Look Rowan, I know this is a big step for us, but I think the move will help us. This place…this place carries a lot of negative energy. A lot of bad things happened to us here. But now that you’re healthy and we’re making some really great progress, I think that this is the best move we could possibly make.” She stops and starts biting her nails. She always bites her nails when she’s nervous. “We gotta stick together, you know. We’re all that we have.” She looks down. “Your father would be so proud of you if he could see how much you’ve grown in the past few months.” She covers her face.

I rush over and squeeze her tight. “I love you mom.” I step back and look her in the eyes. “Remember,” I say confidently, “this is the year of change.”




The Student Voice Project

This reading week instead of reading or sitting at home, I decided to take part in a program at New College called ‘the Student Voice Project’, a mental health awareness initiative. It ran for three days, there was breakfast and lunch included, and we got a CCR credit for participating in the program. Not too shabby, I thought to myself. If you’re a student trying to get into grad school, you’ll realize the important of having a varied CCR to show your school involvement. Anyways, I realized that it would be a pain in the butt getting to school for 9am when I commute from two hours away, but I thought whatever, I do it all semester, what’ll three days hurt?

When I look back, I was very selfish and unassuming when I first decided to get into the program. All I wanted was the CCR credit; I didn’t realize that I would be getting much, much more out the experience. I arrived on the first day at the Wilson Lounge in New College, and was immediately welcomed by friendly students and facilitators. We started with breakfast and doing a few icebreakers. I was so astounded by the friendly faces and amazing people that were there. Everyone was so kind and caring right off the bat, and it was probably one of the most welcoming and warming atmospheres I’ve ever been in. Next, we were hit hard with a very serious talk about wellness and self care by a speaker named Melissa Corcoran. She talked about cognitive distortions, attitude and language and various wellness tools while also relating everything back to her very personal story that she was so willing to share with us. She spoke about the struggle, the rock bottom and the breakthroughs she had, and it was such an amazing story. Melissa just completely turned her life around and I’d honestly never met someone who had been through so much hardship but really lived to spread the good message about becoming healthy. She showed off mediation techniques and how to get yourself calm and centered, and I really valued that. I mean, at this university it’s hard enough to just get a moment for yourself, and this was a great tool that only took a few minutes.

The next workshop we did was about barriers as to why people don’t seek mental health treatment. It was really something that I had never thought about before, because thank God, I’ve never needed mental health treatment. Hearing the ideas and knowledge that everyone had was so such an enlightening experience. Everyone was sharing ideas and there was no judgment or prejudice. I loved hearing what everyone had to say, especially during the end of the day reflections. The whole process was almost like a group therapy session. We were allowed to learn and experience on our own, but we came together to share our feelings and reflect in a group, and it was something that I had never experienced before.

The second day was based on starting a zine. Going into the process, I had no idea what a zine was but I just sort of new that I wanted to make one. Zines are small, self-published magazine-type works that are used to spread a message. They are usually anonymous, giving the author total control over whatever they want to say. We planned our zines and started creating, and finished up our zines on the third and final day. I have to say that creating the zine was my favourite part of the process. Instead of using computers, we were using crayons and paper, and it was so great to be able to be creative. Being a writer, I usually don’t get be very visual or add illustrations to my writing, so it was almost like I was back in grade school. It was a very freeing experience and I really enjoyed being able to just talk about whatever I wanted to talk about.

Our zines are going to be displayed in the New College library for everyone to see, which is a very exciting thing (I’ve always wanted to be published!). The final day was really hard. I didn’t want to leave, but our group discussion and reflection did give me some closure. I met some of the greatest people at SVP, and it was an experience that I’ll never forget and definitely return to in my coming years. It was really nothing like I’d experienced before. The warmth, the friendship, the camaraderie and freedom of speech without judgment created the most amazing atmosphere we utilized to talk about very important mental health awareness issues. I thought that this experience would be great because I want to go into psychology, but if not that, I got to self reflect and really think deeply about important and controversial topics. That’s something we rarely ever get to do in our everyday lives.

This was really one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had since I’ve been at U of T and I highly recommend to everyone. In early January, you’ll see the application in the emails from Blueprint services. No fear, no judgment and lots of learning – that’s my kind of project.

Why I’m Not Excited for Ben Affleck’s Batman

As a comic book fan, all I’ve been dreaming of is seeing my favorite character Batman, team up with his best pal and polar opposite, Superman. I love seeing these two together, they are so different but yet they understand each other. No matter how much they fight during the issue, they are always there for each other during the final conflict and get the job done right.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder and is said to have appearances by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and Lex Luthor, played accordingly by Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Jesse Eisenberg. I’m very excited to see these guys in their respective roles (I’m a little worried about how Eisenberg’s Luthor is going to work out but I have hope), but the only issue I have is with the title character, Ben Affleck.

I totally understand the need to re-cast Batman – Nolan’s version is so dark, gritty and realistic, but having Batman behave like this in a Justice League movie wouldn’t pan out too nicely. Batman is essentially a team player in the Justice League; he loves and cares about his colleagues and is nowhere near the loner we see in the Nolan movies. He’s witty, sharp and sometimes gets in a few good jokes. Justice League Batman is a lighter character; he’s great to watch with the team and can actually be a pretty fun dude.

I see why Snyder may have chosen Affleck – despite being a jokester in real life, he has a wide range, as we’ve seen in Argo, Gone Girl, Good Will Hunting, and even Dazed and Confused. I’ll give it to him, he can act, and I think he can capture Wayne’s constant inner turmoil, and he’s not a bad looking guy either. That said, he’s not at all what Batman would look like. Bruce Wayne is supposed to have jet black hair, intense blue eyes, a square jawline and is built like a quarter back. He’s supposed to be 6’ 2 and 210lbs – that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. I have so many doubts that Affleck will have the musculature that would make a believable Batman (TMZ posted a photo here and I’m not convinced: http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_w54qieg0/). Also, Affleck is 41 – it’s a little old to be starting a career as a superhero (RDJ is an exception). I think his age is also a clue into how this version of Batman is going to behave – he may be an older, wiser and calmer Batman which I think is exactly what the Justice League needs.

I think what I’m worried about is that Affleck may be able to pull off being Bruce Wayne, but can he pull off the intensity and athletic ability of Batman? Affleck’s only been in a few action movies and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to bring everything that is required to the table. I would have even more doubts if Snyder wasn’t the director – he is responsible for the masterpiece that is The Watchmen, and casting Henry Cavill play Superman. So maybe Affleck will do a better job than I’m giving him credit for, he was hand selected and the crowd during the Comic-Con screening reacted really well to him, so I’m hoping I won’t be let down again. *cough* *cough* Daredevil.