As a McGill student, and a young adult in my early twenties, I strive to get the most out of life. On top my university courses, I work two jobs, write for a magazine, play sports, have my own apartment, and of course try to spend whatever free time I have with my friends. This busy lifestyle is all too common amongst McGill students, who, like me, aim to fill each day with as much excitement as possible.
But what happens when it all becomes a little too much and stress starts to set in? More often than not, students succumb to this stress, at the expense of their mental health or overall well being.
Traditional outlets for mental health support such as counselling and therapy, are often difficult to access with long wait times and expensive appointments. Recognizing this gap between the need for support and available outlets for students, McGill Dobson Cup winning startup Vent Over Tea has a brilliant solution to bridge this gap.
The young company, founded by Sarah Fennessy and Chloe Chow, two zealous McGill Alumni, features a free active listening service run by trained volunteers who are paired with people that simply need to vent. To maintain a casual, comfortable, and safe environment for these venting sessions, the Vent Over Tea platform coordinates venters and volunteers to meet at a local cafe at a time specified by the venter.
Although the service is not a replacement for professional mental health treatment, communicating with friendly, empathetic person, can often be a highly effective method of relieving stress and anxiety. As Chloe and Sarah mentioned during their final pitch in the 2016 McGill Dobson Cup, students often need an outlet to express their thoughts in order to reduce the burdens of stress, anxiety and depression, thus Vent Over Tea’s service can provide exactly what many students need — an friendly listening ear.
An important aspect of the service is, as they state, “We do not offer counselling, psychotherapy or advice.” They aim to create a welcoming space for people to communicate their thoughts with someone who is completely uninvolved with their life to prevent judgement and “a fresh pair of ears to your story,” as they state.
I took the opportunity to be a venter myself to learn more about the service and experience it hands on. In fact, the timing couldn’t have been better, as I was also going through a bit of a stressful period in my life as well. Every step of the sign up process was very simple, and upon meeting the volunteer who was paired with me, I was delighted by her friendly disposition.
At first I was nervous as to how the conversation would go, questioning whether I would feel comfortable opening up about personal aspects of my life, but my doubts were quickly shaken. It was incredibly easy to communicate my ideas and my volunteer seemed to facilitate the conversation effortlessly. As we continued to chat, the insights and questions actually led me to a point in which I gained a deeper understanding of my own situation, and was left feeling relieved and fulfilled.