One in five Canadians struggles with their mental health, but only one in four will seek help, and even that isn’t a guarantee with long wait times and costly treatments. So, how can we bring more awareness to this while lessening the stigma around it?
One Canadian organization hopes to help with that.
Saultites gathered at Algoma University on Saturday for their first ever Jack.org summit – a summit aimed at bringing awareness to mental health.
Jack.org is a Canadian charity that trains and empowers young people to be leaders and revolutionize mental health across the country. There are numerous chapters throughout Canada, one of which happens to be at Algoma U.
Saturday’s event was significant for both Algoma U and Jack.org as it was the first summit to take place in Northern Ontario.
Algoma U Chapter President Emily Faubert told SaultOnline she got involved in this initiative after her supervisor approached her with the idea of starting a local chapter in September of 2018.
The Algoma U chapter helps to promote the services offered at the university, such as counselling, speaking to an academic advisor, etc.
“(It’s a way of) reaching out,” she said. “Sort of promoting that idea of being there for other students as well as showing support, giving students the opportunity to join the chapter.”
“People are struggling with mental health in our community, and people aren’t getting the help they need,” she said.
“I think it’s very important that we have these resources that people can reach out to and get the help they need.”
Two of the speakers during the summit’s morning Jack Talk were Jack.org Network Rep Amy Wang and Mohammad Hussain, Chapter Coordinator for Jack.org.
Wang has done countless Jack Talks, but for Hussain, this was a first.
A Jack Talk is a presentation that “helps get everyone on the same page,” Hussain told SaultOnline.
“We’re all learning,” he said, “and I think a good place to start for a summit like this is to get everyone on that same page, make sure everyone has the same knowledge.”
Topics covered in a Jack Talk include:
- What is mental health?
- What is mental illness?
- What’s the difference?; and
- How can we all succeed?
“What we try to do with the Jack Talk is explain that everyone is capable of having great mental health,” he said.
Another integral part of the Jack Talk is about how to be there for others, as that can be a challenge.
“It’s hard to know how to help someone who’s struggling and we try to make that a simple process that should be easy to follow so that you can reach out for help or you can reach out to someone that needs help in a way that gets them the help they need.”
Wang said she hopes people come away from the summit taking the knowledge they gained at it and being motivated and inspired to do something about it, such as talking to someone or becoming a part of Jack.org.
“I think taking action is really important,” she said.
She said she thinks doing this is an important way to bring awareness.
“I think for our generation of youth, there’s been a lot of barriers to accessing help, and a lot of other factors that have really impacted youth wellness and youth mental health in general,” she said.
“So I’m really happy to see that so many people are starting to speak up about it, and I think it’s just important to continue those conversations, because a lot of people are continuing to struggle in silence, a lot of people aren’t getting the help that they need when they need it.”
Hussain said he thinks mental health advocacy needs to come from youth and young people.
“It needs to be accessible for everyone, but it’s when youth are bringing it that it’s going to have the most impact.”