‘Love is love inspires health is health’: Inspiring youth to become leaders in mental health conversations

Jacob Halloran is a local mental health advocate, the lead of Dalhousie University’s Jack.org Chapter and a certified Jack Talks Speaker.
Jacob Halloran is a local mental health advocate, the lead of Dalhousie University’s Jack.org Chapter and a certified Jack Talks Speaker.

“Being that spark for so many youth in Canada has been my proudest involvement to date.”

When Jacob Halloran learned about the isolation and loneliness that people can feel while experiencing mental illness, he knew there was work to be done.

“I was used to working with youth who felt isolated and alone due to their gender or sexual orientation. I believed in sharing the message that love is love and no one should have to feel this way,” Halloran said.

“When I came to learn that youth were feeling isolated and alone due to a diagnosis or struggle with mental illness, it only made sense to me that health is health. We should all be able to get the support and help when we need it,” he said.

Halloran’s revelation came to him following a presentation at his then-high school, Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy. Students from St. Francis Xavier University spoke to an auditorium of high school students following their return from the Jack Summit.

“The presentation the students gave was a perfect combination of raw emotion and important education; they opened themselves up to give our school a look of what living through mental health struggles really meant, and spoke to the importance of starting conversations and breaking down stigma so that youth didn’t have to struggle alone, in silence,” Halloran explained.

Jack.org is a national organization that encourages young people to become leaders in mental health conversations. It has chapters within high schools and universities across Canada that are set up and run by youth. 

Nova Scotia is home to 23 chapters. 

Halloran played an integral role in the start-up of the first high school chapter of Jack.org in eastern Nova Scotia. This chapter, like many others in Nova Scotia, receives support through youth health centres, whose coordinators are members of Nova Scotia Health Authority’s public health team. 

"The more people and partners we have encouraging youth to talk about mental health and to reach out for support when needed, the better," said Christina Williams, who works as a health centre public health nurse at East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy. 

"Jack.org has youth engaging youth – it's a great way to help the messages resonate in a meaningful way."

Since graduating high school, Halloran has gone on to Dalhousie University, where he is the volunteer lead of Jack.org’s Dal Chapter and a certified Jack Talks Speaker. He goes into universities and high schools across the province talking about what mental health is, why the conversation is important and how to support one another. 

He was also one of 12 university and high school students representing Jack.org in the program development and planning of the Jack.org summit in 2017. This event is a national, youth-led gathering focused on sharing ideas and large-scale strategies around mental health. This is, in fact, the same summit that originally inspired Halloran to get involved in youth mental health and start up the Jack.org chapter at his high school.

“The impact we were able to have (at the summit) is immeasurable because you can never truly measure the difference you make on participants or the difference they will make being leaders in their own communities,” Halloran said. 

Visit Jack.org to learn more.