The person I am today has been greatly influenced by my experiences at the Jack Summit 2015. I am an individual who fights for freedom and equality. I am someone who promotes holistic wellbeing. I am a voice of reason for those who cannot speak on their own behalf. I am an advocate for mental health and a stigma fighter. I have seen the pain and suffering caused by mental illness within my own community, and in my own life.
What I failed to understand was that there was an ongoing crisis of mental illnesses for young people in my own country. This changed after I attended Jack Summit 2015.
I gained an understanding of the stigma that exists around mental health in my country. I also gained the skills, strengths and network to help combat this problem.
I am tired of seeing my peers, my friends, and the people in my country suffering from mental illnesses and not getting the help or attention they need. The fact of the matter is that everyone has mental health and everyone is susceptible to mental illness, yet our society fails to acknowledge mental health and illness to the same degree as physical health and illness.
So what are the results of the ongoing stigma around mental illness? I’m sure at this point in our lives we all know at least one person who suffers from mental illness. Maybe some of us know more. Mental illnesses impact more than just the individual–they also affect their families, friends and peers. There is an ongoing mental health epidemic amongst the younger generation, and there just aren’t enough professional services to help everyone suffering from mental illnesses.
So how do you address this problem if our healthcare professionals or politicians aren’t? It starts with a group of diverse individuals who all want to address the issue and solve the same problem.
This is where Jack Summit 2015 comes in. The summit, held annually in Toronto, Canada, was one of the most empowering and eye opening experiences of my life. Being in the presence of 200 other students from across Canada who all want to help change the perceptions of mental health in Canada ignited a fire of passion within my soul. I came back to Prince Edward Island equipped with a more in depth understanding of mental health, and enough passion to form a group of my own to help combat stigma in my own community. After Jack Summit 2015 I have actively involved myself in a variety of mental health initiatives. I have started a Jack.org chapter in my own university, received training in Mental Health First Aid, and volunteered at various mental health events and programs.
You don’t have to be a specific type of person, you don’t have to have a certain job or education, and it has nothing to do about wealth or income. Anyone can help combat the stigma around mental health. In fact all you need is passion, and that passion will drive you to be the collective change that our society desperately needs. It pains me to know that there are people who suffer every day from mental illness and must face these illnesses alone without any support or aid because of stigma.
The current battle to eliminate stigma around mental illness is described eloquently by one of my favorite music artist, King Los, when he says:
It’s a war going on outside on the corner / It's a war on your TV screen every morning / Not the war with the bombs and the helicopters swarming / But the war for your soul, that's what everyone's ignoring / It's a war going on / Yeah, it's a war going on.
After attending Jack Summit 2015, I’m not ignoring the fight against stigma.