During Mental Health Month, Our Kids Media is featuring a series of articles to raise awareness about depression, anxiety, suicide and other forms of mental illness — and how we can help save our children.
Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. This illness impacts our youth early and often. We know that 50 per cent of all psychological disorders emerge before 14 years of age, 75 per cent before age 24. Fully one in four transitioning youth (15-20) will face a diagnosable mental health problem. So the problem is serious, very serious.
The Jack Project is the legacy of my son Jack Windeler who in March 2010, as a first-year student at Queenʼs University, tragically and unexpectedly died by suicide. Jack asked that no fuss be made of his passing, but to help others in need, our family has kick-started the Jack Windeler Memorial Fund and partnered with Kids Help Phone and the Mental Health Commission of Canada in a national program to help our transitioning youth. The mission of The Jack Project (www.TheJackProject.org) is to support our youth as they transition from late high school into their years of college, university or independent living, helping them to achieve and sustain their optimal mental health.
How can we make a difference?
We’re developing a relevant, comprehensive, effective online support system for youth in transition. This includes interlinking key youth-oriented and youth-servicing partners together in a coordinated online support system to pioneer e-mental health technologies in Canada. We’ll invest in online chat and mobile applications linking teens and young adults to the trained professionals at Kids Help Phone.
Working with leading Canadian mental health organizations, we’re aiming to develop a comprehensive, effective and inclusive mental health Model of Care and best practices Toolbox for transitioning teens and young adults, as well as their peers, community members and caregivers across secondary and postsecondary educational environments. Ideally, this Model of Care will become a National Standard. Weʼll build on action taken at Queenʼs University, expanding an outreach campaign to reach 300 high schools and 30 colleges/universities within 24 months.
How can you help? Follow our story. Spread the word. Donate to help us help more youth. Most important, ACT! Join in the conversation about mental health with your family and friends. Start to really, really talk. Put your own “mental health family tree” on paper. Discuss it with your kids like you would any physical health issues that have impacted your family. Get involved with this No. 1 health challenge our youth face. Talking and acting will reduce the stigma that is in all of us and begin the process of lasting change . . . helping those like Jack who are suffering in silence get the help they need.
[After his son’s suicide, Eric Windeler founded TheJackProject.org, with a mission to inspire a national culture of informed compassion and care for emerging adults suffering from mental illness.]