Brian's take on Blue MondaySaturday, January 26, 2013 by: Connie Carello
On Monday, Universities and Colleges all over Ontario took part in a provincial wide campaign know as “Blue-Twenty One Thirteen” or “Blue Monday.”
Through a variety of statistical tests, January 21st has been found to be the saddest day of the year.
The purpose of the campaign initiative was to break the stigma that surrounds mental health and includes the awareness of various conditions which are commonly experienced by students, staff, parents, and friends.
Some of these conditions include stress, anxiety, depression, grief or even low self-esteem.
According to Aviation student and co-organizer of the “Blue Twenty-One Thirteen” campaign at Sault College, Frank Dunbar, the campaign was an opportunity for students to express their thoughts with one another in order to shed light on the support networks students can build to overcome mental health issues.
“We really wanted to show the students that they have a variety of different services they can take advantage of if they do need to talk to someone. They can come out and get counselling, our student services department has a wonderful team” Dunbar said. “We also developed these post cards so that students can provide submissions of their own story, issues they have dealt with and how they personally overcame the stress in their lives. We have developed a social media site for these submissions so that students can read them and leave comments.”
To enhance the meaning of the campaign, motivational speaker and Sault College Instructor Brian Calcafuoco (shown on right) was asked to speak to students and staff about his strength in overcoming the challenges that came with his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy – a condition that occurs in the brain and affects the development of the spinal cord.
Born a premature infant, Calcafuoco was developing much slower than his twin brother.
While visiting a specialist, Calcafuoco was informed that his condition would prevent him from walking later in life.
Although there was strong evidence to convince doctors of this statement, Calcafuoco along with the support of his parents refused to accept this information as fact.
After a ten hour surgery to stretch out his hamstrings and repair his hip, Calcafuoco was confined to a wheel chair when he returned to High school.
Although disappointed by this, Calcafuoco began a fitness regime that allowed him to strengthen his upper body and spurred his passion for the gym.
In July of 1998, Calcafuoco was back on his feet, unassisted and walking.
“Although my recovery was slow paced, I learned how to accept help from others. It is good to be independent but not so independent that you forget to accept help from others when you really need it. There are also things we all too often accept as fact, but then have to recognize that we can challenge things through the power of the mind. If you want to make something happen, you will make it happen” Calcafuoco said.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Calcafuoco encouraged approximately 40 guests in attendance to “doubt their limits” and encouraged attendees to recognize that the only person who can fully understand their capabilities, is themselves.
He encouraged positive thinking and motivated people to view their challenges as building blocks or spring boards to only work harder.
“For me,” Calcafuoco said, “the opportunity to speak to others is really rewarding in the sense that I hope to make a difference in people’s lives. There are a lot of people who dwell on stuff and I know that first hand from personal experience, it is how you decide to cope with your struggles that will allow you to overcome them.”
Calcafuoco’s speech was a challenge to the word challenge itself, as he was a first-hand example of the possibility to achieve any goal and overcome any struggle life may present.