Jillian Hooper, Student, PG Youth Action Team & NBOM Planning Team Member
Mental health and wellness has been a passion of mine for many years. Although, it wasn't always a passion... it was a burden, an illness, and a debilitating struggle. I suffered from depression throughout my adolescence, along with anxiety, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress as I entered into early adulthood. I felt isolated, misunderstood, judged, and defeated.
Growing up, resources in my community were scarce or unapproachable. In addition, dialogue about mental health was absent. This seemed unacceptable to me, and so, I set out on a journey to Make Mental Health Matter*. In 2016, I joined the Prince George Youth Action Team, a group of youth determined to raise mental health awareness and decrease the stigmatization. Shortly after, I joined the Northern Balancing Our Minds Planning Team, all the while, studying psychology and social work. NBOM was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I had the honour of being one of the MC's for the event and I also shared my personal story. After, I was approached by numerous students, school staff, and peers who offered me kind words and deep appreciation for speaking about my mental illness. I had no idea that sharing my story could have such a lasting, positive impact on others. Nor, that it could have a lasting, positive impact on myself.
The students also learned about resources that are available in the community. They watched amazing performances from the Khast'an Drummers and Mob Bounce. Trent Seymour, Canada's first Umpire on Wheels, and Cassie Hawrysh, 2013/14 Canadian Champion, World Cup medalist, and 2014 Olympic-Alternate, spoke about their experiences with mental health and wellness. Finally, the day ended with table talk group discussions, which encouraged students to develop an action plan to become champions of mental health and wellness in their school communities. All in all, NBOM was wonderfully successful!
As a teenager, I didn't have the opportunity to attend a mental health youth summit like this one. I honestly believe that if I had, my healing journey would have started sooner and I would have struggled less. Regardless, I am so grateful that today’s youth are getting the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue about mental health.
Sharing is caring. It’s cliché and we hear this all the time. Although, NBOM gave this phrase a whole new meaning to me. When we share our stories and speak out about mental health, we are inspiring others. We are giving others the strength they need to reach out for help. We are connecting with each other on a new level. These connections foster hope, belonging, and courage. Sharing our stories creates an enduring empathetic community that is accepting of mental illness. One story at a time we can combat the stigma, stereotyping, and avoidance of mental illness. We can, and we will. NBOM has come to a close, but the legacy lives on. Personally, I am so inspired and cannot wait for what comes next!
*Making Mental Health Matter is the Prince George Youth Action Team's ultimate goal. Find us on Facebook and Instagram at PG Youth Action Team.