My Virtual Jack Summit Experience
This past week, I got the chance to serve as an Ontario delegate at the National Jack Summit -- Canada's largest youth-led mental health conference! If you haven't already heard of Jack.org, it is Canada's sole charity that trains and empowers young leaders to revolutionize mental health through globally recognized programs such as Jack Talks, Jack Chapters, and Jack Summits. There has definitely been progress over the past few years in the way that mental health is viewed, but there is still so much more that needs to be done. This year's Jack Summit theme was Not Done Yet.
The National Jack Summit is usually held in Toronto every year, but after the declaration of an international pandemic, a decision was made to cancel the summit. However, the pandemic didn't stop us from coming together! It wasn't long until a virtual Jack Summit was born.
Coming into the summit, I was a bit nervous. I'll be honest - I tend to stay in the background of group discussions and I also felt like I didn't know much about the mental health landscape in Canada. I just knew that so many are suffering in silence due to stigma, and I wanted to do my part in breaking down that barrier. However, as soon as I started engaging with other delegates, I immediately felt at ease. Everyone was so kind and encouraging, and I came out of the summit gaining so much more knowledge about various aspects of the mental health landscape, the challenges that different populations are facing, and the different ways I can use my voice to spark change.
Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to connect with fellow mental health advocates from all over the country through online discussion threads on various topics including mental health in the K-12 education system, challenges in the LGBTQ+ community, music and mental health, mental health in the media, and much much more. There were also fun threads about different methods of self-care, favourite shows to binge-watch, and mental health memes (this thread was called "MEME-tal Health!"). There was a thread for pretty much anything under the sun which was a great way to meet and connect with other delegates over common interests and passions, and to learn more about topics that I didn't have much background on. There were also fun virtual activities to get engaged such yoga and meditation sessions and workshops on creative writing, self-care, and social media advocacy. We even had a virtual scavenger hunt and a Netflix Party night!
During the summit, I had the chance to listen in on various keynote presentations about important topics in the mental health space. Two of these really stood out to me. The first was a presentation on Grit and Resilience by Dr. Joseph Ivan. He discussed how talent and academic preparation can only get you so far -- in order to be truly successful, you have to be able to persevere above all the challenges you are faced with. It's about accepting failure, recognizing that it's part of the journey, and putting in the time and effort to improve and come back stronger. One statement that really resonated with me was when Dr. Ivan said, "There are lots of people who will tell you that you're not good enough, and if you're not careful, you'll start to believe them." It's important to shower ourselves with daily affirmations to remind us who we are, and to flip those negative thoughts into positive ones so that we are better able to fight back and show those non-believers that we are capable.
The second keynote presentation that captured my attention was by Michael Redhead Champagne, who emphasized that "we don't have to wait for something bad to happen in order to take action." It is so important in this day and age to be proactive in order to prevent negative events and the consequences that come with it, rather than reactive. For example, frequently checking in with your friends and family to see how they are doing and showing that you care, rather than waiting for them to come to you when they are in crisis, could save a life.
Finally, and most importantly, Jack Summit delegates had the opportunity to craft recommendations on how to improve the mental health landscape in Canada and present them before the Honourable Bardish Chagger, the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in these live discussions due to work, but I am so amazed at the proposals that each province and territory had presented to Minister Chagger and I am confident that our recommendations will have a positive impact on what Canada's mental health landscape will look like in the future.
Although this year's Jack Summit wasn't exactly what I expected, I'm glad I was able to be a part of it (even if that meant rushing to the Webex to catch a live keynote presentation right after my work shift !). If anything, this whole virtual experience has made me even more excited for the 2021 Jack Summit where I will be able to meet all of these wonderful advocates in person and have face-to-face conversations about how we can improve mental health in our communities.
If anything in this blog post has resonated with you, I definitely recommend applying to be a delegate for next year! Check out this 2-minute video recapping the virtual Jack Summit experience (and my 5 seconds of fame 😉) below. We are #NotDoneYet !