PHOTO COURTESY OF JACK ORG

Jack.org U of T is hosting its first annual regional mental health summit on March 24. The summit, titled “Impact,” will bring postsecondary students from across the GTA together with experts across mental health fields. The goal of this summit is to build skills and relationships in the spirit of furthering mental health advocacy and learning how to advocate effectively.

Numerous conversations surrounding mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in the current cultural consciousness. They are part of our University of Toronto culture, like the recent discussion surrounding the university’s mandatory leave policy, and they are part of Canada’s national culture, with programs like Bell Let’s Talk growing yearly across the nation.

As laudable as the efforts have been to bring about change in our communities, what we are doing is not yet equal to the task at hand. The need for effective mental health advocacy right now is crucial. Still, there are students with mental illnesses who suffer silently, who walk past primary care facilities with signs that read “accepting new patients” — but the signs aren’t offering mental health care. These illnesses may lead to crisis or even death, and while patients wait for months to see someone, the common cold can be treated 365 days a year on a walk-in basis without the need for a referral.

This is but one symptom of an issue that at times can seem vaster than empires. There are issues of stigma both structural and social that make it hard to even discuss mental health, whether in the context of illness, or even in the context of how individuals should care for their mental health. Jack.org is dedicated to abolishing these stigmas through education and empowering youth leaders to improve their communities.

The “Impact Summit” is one way we seek to do this. We aim to bring students and mental health experts together in a communal learning environment, in the hopes of developing and improving the conversations that we are already having in order to more effectively bring about desperately needed social change.

“Impact” will be the largest student-led summit of its kind in Canada, open to 200 postsecondary students across the GTA. The summit’s theme is effective mental health advocacy, and it will feature skills workshops, a panel of individuals that have pioneered mental health initiatives in our community, a keynote address from U of T’s Psychiatrist-in-Chief of Health & Wellness, and a collaborative case competition. The full details are listed on our chapter website, jackchapteruoft.org.

Join us on March 24 and help us drive effective and positive change within our community. Let us alter attitudes about mental health — not just for the one in five, but for everyone.

Sean Smith is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying English, Philosophy, and Writing and Rhetoric. He is the Chapter Lead of Jack.org U of T.

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