Smash the Stigma Returns

Active Minds at Trent invites students to “smash the stigma” by smashing leftover pumpkins after Hallowe’en. Photo by Jeff Jung.

Smash the Stigma is an annual event put on by Trent Active Minds (TAM) that involves smashing pumpkins on the Bata Podium steps to signify “smashing the stigma” surrounding mental health. This year, Active Minds ran the event on Friday, November 1, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. Students could either donate or use their own pumpkins from Halloween, or they can smash a pumpkin that Active Minds provides. The pumpkins that TAM uses for this event are leftover pumpkins from local farms that are donated to this cause, or bought from stores that no longer sell them due to pumpkin season being over. Students write stigmatized words surrounding mental health, such as “crazy,” “psycho” or “stupid” on their pumpkin before smashing them on the steps. This activity is great for stress relief, creating change, and is environmentally friendly.

“Smash the Stigma is one of my favourite events each year! It is such a simple way to get students engaged and destress! We also strive each year to find new ways to make it more sustainable,” says Sarah Stooke, the President of Trent Active Minds. Stooke has been with TAM for three years now and runs the event rain or shine. In fact, last year’s event was incredibly rainy, but the group decided to run the event on Bata Podium anyway. The event had a great turnout, and coincidentally coincided with the Trent Fall Open House.

The event started in 2016, originally an idea thought up by Dan Morris, the community coordinator on Trent Active Minds, as well as other students across Canada at the Jack Summit Conference in 2015. To this day, the Jack Chapters of the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) also runs this event. The main purpose of the event is to give students a chance to destress; to let off some steam and just break something.

“University is hard, and it feels good to destress. It’s about the release of stress for students, less so the breaking of objects,” Morris says.

A similar event takes place at The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). In 2017, the UOIT Engineering Society put on an event called Car Smash, where students wrote their worries on a donated vehicle and then smashed it with a sledgehammer. While Trent Active Minds will be sticking to pumpkins, and maybe the occasional squash, it is nice to see other schools participating in de-stressing activities as well.

This year’s event had a good turnout despite the cold weather, and every single pumpkin was used.

“Turn out on the day of is usually dependent on students who take the bus to and from the university campus. This year we had a great turnout of around 50 people!” says Amber Holmes, the Vice President of Trent Active Minds. Students are often hesitant to take time out of their day to join an event, especially in an area so close to the bus stop. However, many students stopped by claiming they needed this event to cheer up their bad day, after writing midterms or receiving marks back.

“I think students first become excited at the chance to smash a pumpkin just in general, but we are usually met with great response once they learn about our group in general and the goal of the event. Every student leaves this event with a smile on their face.”