Unleash the Noise is organized by students for students
There is a certain stigma about mental health. And when it come mental health illness in children and adolescents, it often becomes a ‘behind-closed-doors’ conversation. That’s all about to change, however, if a group of university students have their way.
Unleash the Noise is a national event that takes place this weekend in Toronto. While it aims to raise awareness about mental health issues, the ultimate goal of the weekend is to go well beyond that, explains Lauren Airth, a third-year nursing student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
Airth, from West Kelowna, is one of 200 youth delegates selected to take part in this event. The hope is to come away with plans to create programs to inspire change and discussion about mental-health issues in adolescents.
“The aim of Unleash the Noise is to decrease stigma around mental health and to develop sustainable and innovative programs for communities from high school to post secondary students,” says Airth. “Unleash the Noise is the first national summit on student mental health innovation. It is entirely student-inspired, student-organized, and student-led.”
Airth heard about Unleash the Noise through fellow nursing student Jen Windeler. Windeler’s cousin Jack committed suicide when he was 18. Jack’s father Eric produced a video that explains he had no idea his son had a mental illness — the family had only noticed Jack had become withdrawn and quiet.
Windeler says that mental illness often strikes before the age of 24 and is the leading cause of non-accidental death in youth. His goal is to reduce the stigma of mental health, especially in young people, and make it a common, dinner-table type of conversation.
Airth, who completed a questionnaire and applied to attend the conference, says young people need to be engaged in open discussions about mental health and it’s up to them to share information and inspire people to increase awareness about the illness.
“While at the summit I’m hoping to gain some fresh, innovative ideas on how to help high school and post-secondary students achieve mental health. There’s so much focus on physical health that people seem to push aside the mental,” she says.
All travel costs for the summit are funded by the Jack Project, but Airth has been busy fundraising as she needed to raise a minimum of $100 to donate to the organization to help offset costs.
“The entire UBC Okanagan nursing faculty has stood behind this endeavor through financial support for me and this has been amazing and so encouraging,” adds Airth. “I’m very excited to meet with other students who are passionate about mental health and I would like to bring fresh, innovative ideas back to the UBC campus.”
Unleash the Noise takes places at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District March 15 and 16. The delegates are from 40 universities, colleges, and high schools from across Canada and all are under the age of 24. Airth is excited to attend and is hoping to learn about ways to engage fellow students in interactive and innovative discussions and raise awareness and about mental health in youth.
“Once I graduate I hope to settle into a career in mental health, while still keeping up medical and surgical nursing skills. I would love to bring a mental health focus into high schools and universities knowing the struggle that a lot of students go through.”
— 30 —