A Sarnia woman who spoke about local mental health issues with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their Canadian tour, says she is impressed by their candor.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Jessica Tetreault-Fazio, 22. “I was honestly surprised how down to earth they were and so engaged.
“I felt like we put mental health on the national stage.”
Tetreault-Fazio is a fourth-year University of Windsor student and her school’s chapter leader of jack.org, a Canadian network of young people working to change attitudes about mental health.
She was one of 19 jack.org youth invited to meet the royal couple during their last stop in British Columbia Oct. 1 aboard the tall ship Pacific Grace.
As they sailed around Victoria’s inner harbour, the jack.org leaders spoke directly with William and Kate.
“The Royal Foundation has a campaign called Heads Together to stop the stigma around mental health,” said Tetreault-Fazio.
“The duke and duchess wanted to know what we’re doing at jack.org and what’s working. It’s very cool that we’re on the same page as them.”
Kate spoke directly to Tetreault-Fazio, asking her why she became heavily involved with jack.org and is a Jack Talk speaker.
“I said I grew up in Sarnia and there were a few deaths by suicide when I was in high school, and the community wasn’t as equipped to deal with them as it could be,” said Tetreault-Fazio.
“I told her there’s been a whole lot of work since then to prevent suicide.
“I had the opportunity to say Sarnia is doing better and my university is doing better. People are more willing to talk about these things. There are programs popping up now that help and the context of the conversation is changing.”
Following the cruise, media from around the world crowded around the student leaders.
Tetreault-Fazio appeared on CTV Vancouver Island News to talk about her discussion with William and Kate.
“There were 139 stories in the media that day about our interaction with the duke and duchess,” she said. “These are the kinds of conversations that will bring change.
“Mental health is on their agenda and they were able to bring it so much attention.”