Whereas one in five young Canadians are affected by a mental health issue, only one in four will find help, according to the Jack.org organization’s website. Created with the goal of erasing the stigma around discussing mental health among young people, Jack.org aims to reach communities through student leaders and hopes to establish a UTM chapter this January.
The organization’s goal is to reduce the youth suicide rate in Canada and help initiate a healthy conversation about mental health. There are Jack.org chapters in every Canadian province, as well as trained Jack Talk Speakers who deliver talks in high schools. There are also national and regional Jack Summits held annually.
Speaking to The Medium, UTM alumnus Nolan Anderson who has been involved with Jack.org during his undergrad, shared how Jack.org opened up a conversation about mental health for young people. Anderson, the valedictorian for the 2017 UTM graduating class, was also a network representative and was one of the few chosen to meet with the British royal family while speaking about mental health. He got involved with Jack.org after attending the national summit called Reaching the Noise in Toronto. The summit involved splitting people into groups and brainstorming answers. Following the summit, Anderson became involved with the Jack Talks program and became a speaker. The Jack Talks program involved training student speakers about mental health education, allowing them to give talks at high schools. Anderson thought it was a good learning experience which made him a better public speaker. Although the talks were personalized with the speaker’s own stories, Anderson said they have since then become more of an educational piece. “You have to learn to do it the right way,” he said.
He stated how having a Jack.org chapter at UTM would be a great idea. “I think it could have a really positive impact on UTM students because it is run by students themselves. It’s hard enough to talk about mental health but you can do it in fun ways.” He remarked how mental health education is not just for people diagnosed with an issue, it is for everybody. “We can all have mental health issues. Jack.org does not provide support or counselling but it can help students feel more comfortable in reaching out for help.”
Melanie Asselin, the president of Jack.org at UTM described the organization to The Medium, saying that, “Jack.org is a network of post-secondary students who are supporting mental health advocacy and breaking stigma around mental health.” Asselin stated that the goal of bringing Jack.org to UTM was to start a conversation about mental health by introducing different activities and opportunities for students. Most of the planning is still in the works as of now.
“A lot of what we are working on right now is starting a conversation about mental health,” she said. “This year, we are focused on a lot of collaboration with the St. George campus.” Asselin added that the regional GTA-wide Jack.org summit is the main event for this year. Regional Jack summits are youth led summits.
The summit welcoms young leaders from local schools or community groups to share resources and learn. The official website also states that the organization has conducted 18 youth led Jack Regional Summits all across the country.
Highlighting the importance of encouraging awareness about mental health issues, the organization’s website states, “1 in 5 young Canadians are affected by mental illness. But only 1 in 4 of those affected will get the help they need. Jack.org programs are designed to reach them all. We work to reach the 5 in 5.”
Asselin emphasized the importance of having these resources on campus by saying, “Mental health is something that everyone has, and so Jack.org is something that everyone can take part in.”