We have a problem.
1/7 youth in Canada report having suicidal thoughts. This year, 150,000 of these young people will act on these thoughts by attempting suicide. For hundreds of them, the attempt will prove fatal. This is the leading health-related cause of death for young people in Canada.
Canada has the 3rd highest rate of youth suicide in the industrial world and though this fact underscores a state of emergency, it says nothing about the millions of young people across the country who are struggling with their mental health without reporting suicidal ideation.
This is the health crisis of this generation and is the epidemic around which we’ve built our mission: to revolutionize mental health. We are Jack.org and, together, we have work to do.
We have a vision.
Canada will be a place where every young person is comfortable talking about and taking care of their mental health. Where every young person who needs help gets the support they deserve. That's the Canada our revolution is working towards.
We are youth-led.
In most social movements, we insist that those who are affected speak for themselves. Those who hold the experience hold the space. Yet strangely, when it comes to youth, we often let others do the talking.
But youth know themselves best. They know their own issues and their obstacles. Who is better positioned to address the effects of social media on mental health? Who better understands the effects of wait times for counsellors on campus? Who can best describe the weight of stigma in high school?
But perhaps most importantly, young people know how to talk to one another. The evidence shows that young people are more likely to take advice from a peer than an adult. So who is better positioned to design strategies for healthy community-building on Instagram? Who can inspire trust and action? Who has the energy and the insight to reject the status quo and build something better?
Given adequate training and an appropriate platform for action, young people have the capacity to change the culture and address the upstream problems surrounding youth mental health. We work with young people to identify their community's specific barriers to positive mental health and co-design strategies to combat them. We provide young people with the skills, tools, and connections they need to set goals and reach them.
We are upstream.
Picture a river. A village of people use that river as their main water source. Suddenly, some people start to get ill after drinking the water. You have to treat the illness, but you’ll also want to travel upstream and identify what’s making the water toxic in the first place.
This upstream focus includes prevention and promotion public health initiatives - stopping a crisis before it happens. Treatment initiatives come later.
Jack.org is both a prevention and promotion organization, focused on creating sustainable, healthy environments for all young people.
We are evidence-based.
Every single thing we do is grounded in evidence.
Sometimes that evidence comes from science and research. The data will tell us something, and we’ll address it in our program design.
Data: 75% of those diagnosed with a mental illness display symptoms before the age of 25.
What it tells us: Youth are among those most at risk for mental health crises.
How we addressed it: We defined our target population as youth aged 15-24.
Often, however, the best evidence comes from our rigorous evaluation process. We constantly conduct qualitative and quantitative evaluation through surveys, interviews, and focus groups to make sure we’re hitting our goals.
In short, this evidence is what young people tell us directly.
For example, our original Jack Chapters hosted a specific set of initiatives according to a “how-to” guide. Our evaluation quickly told us this approach was too prescriptive. The barriers to help-seeking at St. Clement’s in Toronto are different than those at Beaver Brae Secondary School in Kenora, and initiatives that fit one context might not fit the other.
In response, we created a Chapter program that looks different all across Canada, training young leaders to thoughtfully develop strategies for their communities’ specific needs. As Jack Chapters expand into new cities like Iqaluit, we do formative evaluation to understand what changes are needed before we introduce ourselves into a new community.
This iterative process allows us to evaluate, then redesign (or reiterate) our programs based on our findings.
We’ve developed an evidence-based model for youth-led mental health promotion and prevention activities that remains safe and effective. Our iterative evaluation process keeps our programs responsive to young people and their communities. And to back this all up, the mental health advisors on our Board of Directors review all program changes to ensure our work stays safe and continues to accomplish our goals.