Colin was a 13 year old boy, mild mannered and quiet. He started grade nine at a new high school, in a new town, with no friends, his family having just moved. It wasn’t long before the bullying began – the name calling, the garbage on his locker, the whispering behind him in the halls.
Colin suffered in silence. His family did not have any idea how much he was struggling. Two weeks after his 14th birthday, Colin packed up all his belongings from his locker and left school. That night he took his own life. He saw no other way out, no way to end his struggles.
In Canada, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth and suicidal thoughts can occur in youth as early as 8 or 9 years old. Many of our youth suffer in silence, battling a mental illness, suffering at the hands of bullying or cyberbullying or unable to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
YouthTALK, a Canadian Mental Health Association program, 100% funded by United Way, is a youth-driven program which supports youth in addressing the myths and realities of suicide and mental health, promotes resiliency and healthy coping skills, and communicates to peers that they are not alone.
The success of the program lies in the fact that youth best know how to deliver the information in a way that will reach their peers in a meaningful way. YouthTALK has in-school teams in high schools across Guelph and Wellington County. Projects can range from small activities run over the lunch hour to large assemblies or in-school conferences that run over a period or an entire day. Youth become true leaders in mental health awareness and suicide prevention. They are offered the opportunity to learn new skills for themselves and pass on those skills and knowledge to their peers. Most importantly, it encourages others to reach out to those who may be in need of a friend or someone to listen to – other youth like Colin.
Together, we can change a life.
Positive mental health for our youth has never been so important, or more terrifying, than it is right now. Your help to bring more mental health programs like YouthTALK to our communities is crucial to supporting our youth through one of the most difficult periods in their lives.
Watch below for more information on the YouthTALK program and how United Way helps.