Imagine, for a moment, the shock to the system that Daelyn Carroll experienced during her first year of studies at the University of Guelph as she adjusted to life on a campus with a bigger population than her quaint hometown of Sparta, Ontario.
“I wasn’t able to balance my (course) workload and my social interactions,” recalls the microbiology student, adding she was just 17 years old when she began her post-secondary journey.
“I had a lot of anxiety and stress. It was really difficult to make friends. I was feeling lost.”
But what is lost is destined to be found.
Enter Grace Hammond of Guelph’s Cam’s Kids team, who met Daelyn via a study group they were both in. Destined to become the best of friends, Grace knew two things about Daelyn from the get-go: she had struggled with anxiety issues, and she wanted to get involved with Cam’s Kids. Just before entering her third year, Daelyn was invited by Grace to be her co-lead.
“Anyone can join Cam’s Kids as long as they are an advocate for helping others with anxiety and mental health issues, but it was important for me to have the experience I had during my first year,” reflects Daelyn, noting her personal struggle “toughened me up a little bit but not to the point where I wasn’t willing to share my story.”
Daelyn has shared a lot since then - making the time for anyone who reaches out, and regularly checking in on those she hasn’t heard from in awhile. A Facebook page dedicated to the Guelph Cam’s Kids’ community has facilitated much of that interaction.
“It’s important to connect on an individual level and get a feel for each person,” she says.
“We talk about what they’ve tried to do, how they’re feeling, and what they can manage. My advice is show up for yourself. Your mental health, your sleep, and your physical wellbeing are more important than any grade on a piece of paper. I didn’t give myself time in my first year, to the point that I developed a chronic illness every month. I was wearing my body down. Check in on your physical and mental health. The study habits will come later.”
The Guelph Cam’s Kids team, says Daelyn, is a tight group – “we have a deep caring and understanding of each other.” On a more personal level, she says her Cam’s Kids involvement has proven to be nothing short of a lifeline.
“My mental health would have been in a worse place if I hadn’t joined Cam’s Kids when I did. Knowing there’s a supportive team that has my back on any given occasion is huge. My university experience obviously means a lot to me, but I try not to get too caught up in ‘it was supposed to go like this.’ It’s OK to have setbacks and struggles.”
Not unlike most Cam’s Kids team members across Canada, Daelyn is as moved today by Cam’s story as she was when she first learned of it – “it really pulled on my heart strings. Cam’s Kids was formed out of love and on the basis of never wanting that to happen to anyone else.”
Ahead for Daelyn is graduation in the spring before she’s off to Western University in London to pursue her Masters of Science. Not lost on her is the fact that Western also has a Cam’s Kids team in place, saying she intends “to reach out and see if there’s anything I can do.” Until then, there’s a job to be done at Guelph and she’s firmly committed to seeing things through.
“We have found three amazing girls who are going to take over for us (her and Grace) next school year,” she says.
“I hope everyone I’ve encountered has left feeling that it was nice to talk to a student that is informed. Mental health is such a sensitive subject. It’s nice to hear information from a peer rather than being talked at; to talk as equals rather than ‘I’m the professional and I’m telling you this is what you need to do.’ I’m a friend. I’ve gone through it too.”