The fear of failure haunts Julia Moretto.
As a senior member on the Brock women’s golf team, she has experienced the highs and lows of mental health struggles associated with being a student-athlete. She’s walked the fine line of balancing athletics and academics.
There’s little margin for error in a sport such as golf. Every swing can either be bliss or gut-wrenching.
“I never knew how scary being alone in your head can be until playing golf,” Moretto said. “As student-athletes, we expect to play at 100 per cent while achieving good grades. It can become overwhelming. There were tons of times where I felt burnt out.”
Moretto wants others to understand they are not alone as Bell Let’s Talk Day approaches on Wednesday, Jan. 26.
The Teacher Education student from Chatham said she understands the negative connotations of asking for help.
“As students, we need to take care of each other. Your mental health doesn’t define who you are,” she said. “Brock has so many ways you can discuss what’s going on, whether that’s support groups, live chats, phone calls or texts. Take your time. When you are ready to reach out, helping hands will be ready to listen and support you.”
Brock, the No. 1-rated university in Canada for mental health services by Maclean’s magazine, maintains a robust array of resources through its Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre.
As part of their ancillary fees, Brock students have access to Personal Counselling Services, Student Health Services, Student Accessibility Services and the Wellness Hub, a drop-in space where students can chat with a Peer Health Educator.
One of Brock’s flagship mental health services is the My SSP App, which offers free, confidential support 24-7 through phone or text chat with licensed counsellors.
Moretto’s pursuit of perfection led her to reflect on mental health and change perspectives for the sake of her well-being.
“I have dealt with anxiety and perfectionism. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in everything,” she said. “For the moments I think about how I could have done better, I just reminded myself how well I did. There’s no such thing as a perfect wrong because there’s always room for improvement and the only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes.”
With Spring Convocation on the horizon, Moretto recalled the support she received from her coaches and fellow teammates at Brock.
In October 2021, Moretto competed in what would be her last Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Golf Championships as a Brock Badger.
“This season was the first time at OUAs where I felt something different,” she said. “I couldn’t stop shaking at the tee block, my heart rate was 160 and I was having a hard time controlling my breathing and emotions.”
Head coach Tara Savoie, who also serves as coach of Brock’s world-class cheer squad, taught her some breathing techniques. Then, when things weren’t going the Badgers’ way, Savoie told her team not to cross their arms if they were angry and instead change their body language as not to block out positive vibes.
“It sounds silly, but it worked, and I had one of my best performances at the OUA Championships this year,” said Moretto, who tied for 13th in the province at Cherry Downs in Pickering.
“You’re playing for your team, so you want to do well for them,” she said. “This was my last year being a Brock Badger on the golf team. It’s a scary feeling not being a part of a competitive team anymore. They meant a lot to me over the past six years.”
The camaraderie of her teammates has been a mental antidote since joining the Badgers in 2016.
“From the beginning, I felt welcome into the Badger family,” Moretto said. “Being on the Brock team helped my love for golf grow as well. It taught me new lessons, helped me improve in all areas, introduced me to friends I met along the way and gave me an unforgettable experience.”
Moretto encourages those caught in a downfall not to suffer in silence. She said it’s crucial to capitalize on Bell Let’s Talk because opening up doesn’t happen often enough.
“You are not alone when facing mental health. If you face anxiety, reflect on the emotion and ask yourself questions that allow you to be present to help cope with anxiety and other things,” she said. “Find something you love, and if you don’t know where to start, you have Brock’s golf team and me there ready to listen. Be kind to yourself during these hard times.”
Bell will donate five cents towards mental health initiatives in Canada for every applicable text, call, Tweet, TikTok video, Instagram post, Snapchat filter or Facebook post published using #BellLetsTalk