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Talking mental health
Aurora College students open chapter in city

Robin Grant
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Young leaders in Yellowknife are hoping to make it easier to talk about mental illness.

 NNSL photograph

Denise Hurley, left, Jason Frittaion, Sarah Mughal and Shania Clark pose for a photo after a talk at Sir John Franklin high school on June 6. - Robin Grant/NNSL photo

Second-year Aurora College nursing student Shania Clark described why she became involved with the issue.

"I noticed when I was in high school here, there wasn't a lot of talk about mental health," said the 20-year old.

"All the people who came to talk about mental health, there was always a lot of negative energy because a lot of people are suffering from it and it is very negative."

In 2016, Clark attended a summit in Toronto held by, a national network of young leaders dedicated to encouraging young people to also become leaders in the mental-health conversation in Canada.

"They have a good way of integrating the discussion towards motivating you to do something about it," she said.

"You are not just aware, you are inspired to go do something."

When she got back to Yellowknife, Clark and her friend Shelby Clarke, 22, applied to be youth leaders and open a chapter on the Aurora College campus.

Their application was accepted and the chapter is opening in September.

On June 6, two youth leaders with the organization, Sarah Mughal and Jason Frittaion, visited Yellowknife for the first time to talk to students at Sir John Franklin and St. Patrick high schools.

The event was organized by Sir John Franklin English language teacher Denise Hurley.

She said she hopes the young leaders can help eliminate some of the stigmas around mental illness.

"I found that when we're talking to teenagers, it's often easier when the message comes from the younger generation," she said.

With lively talks that encouraged the students to participate, the youth leaders provided useful information about mental health and how to recognize someone who might be suffering and help them out. In particular, the youth leaders talked about the stages of mental health from the healthy stages to the stressed and crisis stages.

"So if you are healthy or a little stressed that is where you are still in control of your emotions," he said.

"The point where you cross over into struggling or crisis is the point where you need professional help and the reason why professional help is so important is because that is the point where you are no longer in control."

Hurley said the struggling and crisis stages are areas student have trouble with.

"It is a crisis," she told Yellowknifer.

"I really wanted the students at Sir John, in particular, to be supported and be able to help friends when they need that help."

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