talk at the top 2019 synthesis
Meet the delegates
identify as Indigenous
identify as members of the LGBTQ2S+ community
identify as members of a visible minority group
live with a disability
live with a diagnosed mental illness
have experienced a mental health struggle
Francis Arevalo is a Filipino rapper and hip-hop artist born and raised in Vancouver. In both his art and personal life, he speaks openly about living with bipolar disorder.
His story was the subject of the award-winning documentary “The Lion,” and, in 2018, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health named him one of the top 150 Canadian mental health advocates.
As the founder of the Vancouver music collective The Lions We Are, he collaborates with local artists to produce music.
Collaborative session #1
How do people think and talk about mental health in your community?
The stigma of talking about mental health is lessening, but there is a heightened stigma around reaching out for support. This means that, while many conversations take place, too few people are ready to seek help for themselves or prompt their peers, students, or children to seek help.
Suicide and mental health struggle are still joked about and this prevents young people who are struggling from seeking help.
There’s a poor understanding about the difference between mental illness and mental health struggle. (Some young people suffer with serious diagnosed mental illness that require sustained professional treatment and may require medication. Others go through mental health struggles that require different forms of support. Young people suffering in either of these two ways need support, but understanding the difference is important when having conversations about mental health.)
What keeps young people from seeking help in your community (i.e. reaching out for help when they need it)?
Concern that a mental health struggle won’t be validated when help is sought from an adult ally.
A lack of widespread awareness of the resources that exist in a community, along with a lack of clarity around what resources meet their specific mental health needs, and who to ask for direction on what support options exist.
The perception that people believe youth in the region are privileged, and a subsequent hesitance to seek support out of fear that their mental health struggle will not be validated.
What gaps can you identify in your community’s mental health system (policies, programs, and services)?
The community system only responds to crisis and fails to get students the support they need in a timely matter.
A lack of agency to keep mental health struggles private. To receive accommodation, you often have to make it publicly known that you are struggling with your mental health to receive support (i.e. regularly scheduled counselling) or accommodation (i.e. assignment extension).
Collaborative session #2:
What goals can we set to address the problem?
Consult with and collect surveys from young people to gain a deeper understanding of what they need from the mental health system. Using that information, advocate for systems change with decisions makers.
Get involved with youth consultations administered by schools. Give input on how the school’s mental health system can better serve students.
Raise awareness of different resources available in the community and guide young people towards resources that meet their specific needs.
Plan events that reach out to members of the community who don’t know much about youth mental health and educate them on important concepts and resources in the community where they can refer young people.
Plan sustainable initiatives that steadily raise awareness about mental health, instead of having a single initiative that piques interest for a short time and then fades.
Collaborative session #3:
How can you take back some of the skills you’ve learned at Talk at the Top to work towards some of the goals you identified in your community?
Using the advocacy and communication skills I gained at Summit, engage decision makers in my school community to discuss how the mental health system can work better for students. This includes:
Develop and implement a less stigmatizing way for students to disclose mental health struggle/illness to their teachers (i.e. through an online form).
Advocate for educator mental health training so teaching staff can better respond to mental health struggle among students.
Push for a youth advisory committee at my school. The purpose of this committee would be to advise school leadership on specific issues that relate to student mental health.
What are some opportunities for us to work together across the whole region in 2019?
Use online platforms to spread the word about the resources that are available across all communities in the region.
Collectively apply pressure on decision makers by turning out and protesting. Like the Climate Strike, the goal of this turnout would be to let those in power know that youth mental health is a priority and a serious health problem that needs to be addressed with resources and real solutions.
Share resources across communities! If you’ve learned something, you should let others in the region know about it so they can use and share these resources too.
Collaborative session #4:
If you could speak to an adult ally (i.e. principal, policy maker) for support to improve youth mental health, what would you tell them?
There is a need to think outside traditional clinical options and provide young people with non-clinical resources that will meet their needs (e.g. peer support options, online counselling etc.) Not everyone is going to need access to a psychiatrist, but everyone will need some form of response. While a young person is on a waitlist for psychiatric services, they need to be able to access other forms of support for their mental health. It is during this time that non-clinical resources are especially important.
It is important to raise awareness of youth mental health among adults allies (i.e. teachers, parents) so they can understand the scale of the problem and play a role in the solution. Providing (free) mental health education options to adults who want to learn about how they can support young people is a good first step.
It is important to think beyond the confines of the school environment and understand how a young person interacts with resources and stressors in the larger community.
Develop communication campaigns that normalize mental health help seeking as preventative. You wouldn’t go to a dentist or a doctor only in times of crisis, so you should be able to check in with a counsellor or a peer group regularly to maintain positive mental health.
Decision makers who represent different institutions (e.g. school boards, provincial government etc.) need to coordinate with each other to understand a) what the different roles and responsibilities of these different institutions are and b) how they can work together to best serve young people.
Have one conversation with an adult about mental health in your community.
Host an "adult ally" night where you bring several adults together to talk about the importance of mental health.
Sign up for a Do Something initiative at jack.org/dosomething. Look for the initiatives marked Attitudes to address stigma in your community.
Start or join a Jack Chapter. Chapters work year round to communities all across the country.
Advocate for better services.
Research organizations or supports in your community that are culturally appropriate and run by local community members. Volunteer with them and share their information widely with your social networks.
Write an op-ed about the importance of local mental health services. Share it with us at Jack.org, local media, and your social networks.
Read and share Jack.org's Youth Voice Report, which uses youth insight to make five key recommendations to adult allies on how they can promote better youth mental health.
Encourage community care.
And don't forget!
Make sure you join the Jack.org Network Group Facebook page to stay connected to the movement.
Connect and share with the national Jack.org movement at instagram.com/jackdotorg
Jack Chapters → Bring lasting change to your community by starting or joining a Jack Chapter. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the ball rolling.
Jack Talks → Talks provide young people with the education to recognize signs of struggle and route people to the support they need. You can bring one to your community or become a Jack Talks speaker at jack.org/talks.
Do Something → The mental health movement is shaping systems, smashing stigma, and so much more. Every action is essential. Start a Do Something initiative in your community.
Be There → People are getting better at speaking up about struggle, but too few of us know how to give that essential support. Be There exists to guide you through the basics. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours, get started at BeThere.org.