The Mental Health Advocate
"It's rewarding to see others take the steps to improve their own mental health."
Madison struggled with depression and anxiety in high school and always felt alone. Eventually, she spoke out through an Instagram post, and began her advocacy journey. In college, she got involved with Jack.org, a Canadian organization focused on improving mental health awareness. She pledged to raise $500 during a Tough Mudder race, and more than doubled her goal by raising $1,400, earning an invitation to the Jack.org National Summit. There, Madison was one of 200 students listening to speakers and learning more about how to be an advocate for the cause. “While I’d already spent three years increasing mental health awareness, this was the first time I felt I had become a mental health advocate.”
For those who may not be familiar, can you explain what Jack.org is and what the organization does?
Jack.org is a Canadian not-for-profit organization aimed at improving mental health awareness and decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illness primarily for university students. Jack.org chapters are run by students for students and host several activities related to mental health and self-care such as talks, art shows and spin classes.
You mentioned in your application that physical exercise had a huge impact on your mental health journey. If you don’t mind sharing, have you struggled with mental health?
Throughout most of high school I struggled with depression and anxiety and since I wasn’t really aware of what I was going though, I felt alone and ashamed of how I felt. Running played a big part in improving my mental health because it gave myself a sense of purpose and aided in my perseverance, both mental and physical, to reclaim my happiness.
Why do you love what you do?
Speaking out about my struggles with mental health has been incredibly rewarding for not only myself, but for others around me. My confidence in myself and my ability to reach out to others in times of difficulty has vastly improved and it’s rewarding to see others take the steps to improve their own mental health. It’s a win-win!
How did you discover your passion for eliminating the stigma around mental illness?
After I had realized what I was going through, I posted an Instagram photo of when I was struggling and explained that I had felt alone with my mental illness and that we as a society need to change to help people going through the same thing. I was really scared when I posted it, but it was met with a lot of positive reception!
How do you define success?
Success to me is expanding and improving upon what you’re already doing. My advocacy began with a few social media posts, to raising money in support of my cause, to planning and implementing events on campus with Jack.org. Remember where you started, where you are now and where you want to be next.
What motivates you?
My motivation comes from how I can identify so closely to the cause I support. In my times of need or when I see a friend, sister or family member struggling, that’s when I’m reminded of how important it is to be able to make everyone feel as though they can talk about their mental health and receive the support they need.
Have you had a single moment where you felt you made an incredible impact? Could you tell me that story?
While there hasn’t been one moment specific to my impact, I think any time someone has come up to me or messaged me anything saying what I’m doing is brave or how it’s helped them, I’m incredibly touched. Sometimes I get caught up in the logistics of planning an event, so sentiments like these keep me going and reinforce the importance of my advocacy work.
Where did you grow up?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Where do you live now?
Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Who is your role model?
What are four things you can't live without?
My running shoes, phone, friends/family and coffee.
I hear you trained for a Tough Mudder. Can you tell me about that?
I did two months of cross-training and running for the Tough Mudder. I’d run two half-marathons prior, so the 16km of running didn’t faze me but I did a lot of HIIT and strength training to tackle the 20 plus obstacles.
How did you go from a goal of $500 to raising $1,400?
My family was incredibly supportive of my campaign and I still can’t thank them enough. They did a lot of work helping fundraise and shared my campaign on social media, so I’m grateful for their support.
How did you react when you found out you were offered a spot for the Jack.org National Summit?
I was so excited! The Jack.org National Summit is limited to 200 university students, so I felt honored to have been chosen. While I’d already spent three years increasing mental health awareness, this was the first time I felt I had become a mental health advocate.
What was the experience of attending the National Summit like?
It’s quite surreal being surrounded by so many people your age who are as committed to the same cause as you. Not only were the speakers incredibly moving, but the students themselves explaining their experiences with advocacy and mental health were inspiring as well. T
What ideas did you learn that you’ve begun implementing on your campus?
The summit focused a lot on inclusivity of all mental illnesses as well as intersectional identities that can play a role in one’s mental health. I want to try and target groups that don’t normally seek out Jack.org events by themselves by looking to diversify our events and content this year.
What went in to organizing and hosting McGill Let’s Talk?
Our Panhellenic Council usually has a cause every month and January’s was mental health, so I worked with them to create McGill Let’s Talk. I created a Facebook event for the Greek population, secured a speaker from our Jack.org chapter and helped raise funds for Jack.org. Since our school lacks meeting space, we hosted the event at Gamma Phi’s facility which made it a conversational and interactive environment.
Has Gamma Phi Beta served as a platform for you to be able to help others and bring about more mental health awareness?
My time as REAL Wellness chairwoman allowed me to act as an active listener for sisters which was incredibly rewarding and McGill Let’s Talk wouldn’t have happened without Gamma Phi. Being vocal about my mental health advocacy has definitely allowed me to get my message out to more people within Gamma Phi as well as our Greek population in general.
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