Students organize a new way to talk about mental health

Unleash the Noise brings together delegates to discuss ideas

Around 400 people from across the country applied for the 200 delegate spots at the summit, organizers say.
Around 400 people from across the country applied for the 200 delegate spots at the summit, organizers say.

According to Justin Scaini, talking about mental health shouldn’t be dull — it should be inspiring.

Unleash the Noise, a student-run mental health innovation summit, co-founded by Scaini, was held this past weekend in Toronto. It looks to revolutionize the way we discuss and deal with youth mental illness, organizers say.

“Many young people, including myself, [have] become numb to the common messages that are there for mental health,” Scaini, ArtSci ’13, said. “We need to push the envelope on how we think about mental health.”

The summit is rooted in the Jack Project, an organization started by Eric Windeler to promote mental health awareness among youth. Windeler lost his son Jack to suicide three years ago at Queen’s.

At the summit, students had the opportunity to brainstorm a mental health strategy that they can take back to their communities. Using online facilitators, the students compiled their ideas in breakout groups of eight people. The information will be available this summer and will form the backbone of next year’s summit.

The idea for the summit began last year when Scaini and Windeler had the idea to connect students from around the province to discuss mental health and stigma reduction. Their goal was to have a solely student-based conversation on issues that affect young people.

“We continued to brainstorm the idea, [and] the stars aligned so we could make it a national conference. We had the funding, we had the interest in the idea,” Scaini said. “We shared the idea with mental health professionals, who were so pumped about students taking ownership of this issue.” With that support, Scaini compiled a team of students at Queen’s to build on ideas and create the conference.

Since their launch in late November, the team members reached out to hundreds of high school, college and university students nationally to get involved with the summit.

“By the end of it all, we had about 400 applications for 200 spots for the delegates,” Scaini said.

“Once we looked at the analytics, we had students from every province in Canada in addition to Nunavut and Yukon who had applied.” While all of the delegates had to fundraise at least $100 in order to attend the conference, most of their conference fees were paid for through sponsors. Those sponsors included the Jack Project, Air Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers and MaRS.

Delegate Mateya Dimnik, ArtSci ’14, said she hopes to help students who have experienced similar struggles with mental health.

Her depression began at the end of her first year and became progressively worse as her second year continued. “It started with not going to my early morning classes, it then continued into not going to my classes at all, then it turned into not going out with my friends at all, and then not leaving my bedroom at all,” she said.

She eventually moved back home and took time off her degree to get better. After reaching her lowest point — ending up in the hospital after a suicide attempt — she found help through counselors and medication and eventually returned to Queen’s.

Upon coming back, however, she felt the stigma from friends about her illness. It was with the hopes of fighting this ingrained stigma that she chose to speak up at different events, including Unleash the Noise.

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