I recently went to one of the Coffee Breaks that Vent Over Tea organizes with SSMU Mental Health every month at Café Joe. Finals were coming soon and in all honesty, I probably should have been studying. But I decided to procrastinate for one more day before I plunged headfirst into exam prep.                                         

Café Joe is a small café that feels very comforting when you first walk in. There were quite a few people there, all huddled in groups talking to each other with ease. One of the Vent Over Tea volunteers greeted me and explained to me that Coffee Break was about everything and anything. You can talk about what’s on your mind with the other attendees, you can book a mini vent session with one of the listeners, or you can even doodle in one of the many sketchbooks that were available, all while enjoying the free beverages and snacks the café provides.

I was kind of worried that it would be awkward initiating conversation with strangers, but it turned out to be really easy. I started to talk to one volunteer and then suddenly we had a whole table full of people from different professions and backgrounds talking about how mental health affected either them or people around them.

One of the topics that came up was how hard it is to talk about mental health with family or friends because it’s not a conversation that people are used to. The conversation of mental health isn’t an easy one to have, especially since there’s a lot of stigma around it. But in that small little café everybody was talking with ease, with no shame or judgement. Even though we all met minutes ago, we all wanted to participate in a healthy conversation in the hopes of helping the people who are struggling daily. It was a remarkable experience to be a part of.

You can come to a Coffee Break to talk to friends, meet new people, have a mini vent session, or to create! It's whatever you want to do.

The conversation ebbed and flowed, with mental health at the forefront. Eventually, we came to the end of Coffee Break, and people gathered around in a circle to talk about what brought them here, how they found out about the event, and what their favorite ice cream flavour was.

Everyone had different reasons for attending, some wanted to have an honest conversation about mental health, some wanted to learn more about mental health, and others wanted to talk openly without having to justify their feelings. Favourite ice cream flavors also varied.

Eventually, the café started to close slowly, but nobody was in a rush leave. People started to trickle out on their own time. Coffee Break was a unique experience that I have yet to see replicated in other spaces.

Strangers come together with one loose concept binding all of them together, creating a conversation that’s reminiscent of old friends catching up. There’s a sense of comfort and ease that I wouldn’t have expected to feel in an unfamiliar café with unfamiliar people. I highly recommend going to a Coffee Break. You don’t have to talk if that isn’t your forte, but do come for the good intentions and open hearts.     


The next Coffee Break is on Wednesday, September 12, we'd love to see you there!

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