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Cameron Penny
Cameron Penny

Cameron Penny

He's sharing his story in rural Nova Scotia. 
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Cameron Penny is speaking up for LGBTQ+ youth.
While growing up on the outskirts of a small town in Cape Breton, the silence surrounding mental health was deafening; there was no place for mental health struggles in the cookie cutter homes that lined the street I grew up on. This silence surrounding mental health—combined with growing up gay in a conservative Catholic family and encountering strong homophobia from my community—set the stage for a period of poor mental wellbeing, one that I didn't realize wasn’t healthy until I reached university. Shortly after starting post-secondary studies, I gained critical mental health literacy that allowed me to access supports that would eventually help undo the self-hatred I was conditioned to adopt as well as mitigate high levels of anxiety and disordered patterns of eating and exercising.

As part of the Jack Talks program, myself and other trained speakers across the country are ensuring that young people understand it is perfectly acceptable to reach out for help when it comes to struggling with your mental health. Through education-based, peer-to-peer mental health presentations, Jack Talks equip young people with vital mental health literacy that teaches them how to look after their own mental health and how to identify signs of struggle in peers. By breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental illness and promoting safe, supportive school communities, we are striving towards a Canada where no young person will die by suicide. During a Jack Talk, speakers are encouraged to weave in anecdotal experience with mental health knowledge. It is my hope that sharing my story through the Jack Talks program will encourage other LGTBQ+ youth as well as young people from other marginalized communities—whose voices have been often silenced—to join the mental health revolution because we all have mental health.