Smashing Stigmas: Meet Andi Heffernan

While working at Cape Breton University’s Tim Hortons location, Andi Heffernan noticed the University’s vibrant campus and decided to become a student herself. Andi is from New Waterford, Nova Scotia, and is in her second year of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program with a major in Accounting. She says CBU has played a vital role in her quality of life and mental health since becoming a student. 

After high school, Andi attended an institution that wasn’t the right fit for her. “I dropped out of school after a year and a half; I felt like a failure and it took a massive toll on my mental health. I swore I’d never be back,” she shares. That was until Andi experienced student life at CBU. “After seeing CBU and how much they care about student life and making university a place where people want to be, I decided to apply,” she says. “CBU makes me want to get up in the morning because of how much the school cares for students.” 

Andi says her favourite thing about her program is the professors. “​​All of my professors have been so amazing both inside and outside the classroom, and fully understand the toll that my mental health can take on me,” she explains. “So it’s been extremely encouraging to keep going.” As well, she says fellow student, Tal Parsons, and CBU’s Mental Health Nurse, Lydia McIssac, have had a significant impact on her openness about mental health and overall university experience. 

Classes aren’t the only thing that brings Andi to campus. “I’m the Bar Supervisor at the Pit Lounge,” says Andi.  “This job has introduced me to so many new friends and makes my time here so extraordinary.” Andi also participates in destress events put on by the CBU Health and Counselling Centre and Peer Support Groups. “These activities are so good for people like me who have ongoing struggles with mental health,” says Andi. “It helps to feel involved and get to talk, which makes us feel more comfortable.”

Andi says she has noticed many changes in herself after starting her journey at CBU. “Since I became a student at CBU, I have seen a tremendous improvement in my quality of life both in the classroom and out,” shares Andi. “​​CBU has this welcoming environment and they have a way of showing that it’s okay to feel things. Through their mental health programming, I met so many amazing friends that share the same experiences as I do, so it helped with making my anxiety and depression easier to deal with.” 

One reason Andi is so open about mental health is because she knows the value it provides to others. “Making sure people know there is someone out there living through the same situation as you, or knowing there is someone out there to listen can go a long way for others,” she explains. However, Andi wasn’t always so open. “I stopped being open for a long time because people thought I was better, even when I wasn’t,” she shares. “But recently, when I lost my friend to their battle with mental health, it reinforced just how important it is to keep talking, to keep breaking the stigmas.”

For students, Andi’s advice for success is to take your time. “​​It is just as important to take time for your mental health as it is for your physical health,” she states. “It’s okay if you need more time; it’s okay to take a break, and it’s okay to reach out for help.”

After graduation, Andi plans on acquiring her Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. She says CBU has equipped her with the skills and information to accomplish this. Later, she hopes to continue her studies at CBU in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program in Community Economic Development. With that, Andi has goals to help Cape Breton Island thrive economically and socially. 

To learn more about CBU’s mental health resources, click here.