Every Jan. 25 is Bell Let’s Talk day throughout the country, a campaign to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness in Canada.
A student group at St. Pat’s High School decided to use their own way on Wednesday to help students in the school who are facing mental health issues.
The school’s Jack Chapter hosted Taco ‘Bout It, an event designed to talk to students about mental health. To go along with that, the chapter, which is aligned with Jack.org, a charity that trains young leaders in mental health initiatives, served up taco-in-a-bag to 200 students. The tacos were put together at six stations where students could learn information about mental health and wellness.
“We thought it was important to create a Jack chapter in the school due to mental health struggles,” said Kelly Janes, the chapter’s staff lead at the school. “We want the students to know that they have people that they can come to, and we are able to provide them resources and other things that they might not know about.”
Janes, who’s also a literacy support teacher and librarian, added as a group, they have more power to stand behind the students who are experiencing mental health struggles and back them up.
“We have higher suicide rates in Northern communities and there is a lot of depression and anxiety, more than before because of COVID with everything shut down,” she said.
Janes also said that because of technology, people are connected much easier than before, meaning that such things as bullying is different than it used to be.
“When I was a kid, if you got bullied in the community, you could just hide in your room but right now, you can’t even be in your bedroom now because of cyber-bullying,” she said.
The chapter is different in that they are not counselors. Instead, they will point students in the direction where they can find the best place for them to get help.
“We can help them to help themselves,” said Hannah Janes, the chapter’s student lead.
The chapter also did an initiative with candy canes before the Christmas break. Those involved with the chapter taped a candy cane to a card that wished the student a happy holiday with information on the back of the card, such as how to contact Kids Help Phone.
“We recognized that during the holiday, all the activities were shut down,” Hannah Janes said. “People being at home for two weeks could be really harmful and dangerous for themselves. At the time, I can remember one student begin to tear up when I gave him the card and that was a sign that what we are doing was needed.”
The chapter currently sits at 12 students and three adults, compared to two people when the group started. Kelly Janes said she’s always looking for more students to join the chapter to help spread awareness to the community.