Travis Tetreault was a student at St. Patrick’s High School when at least nine of his peers died by suicide several years ago.
“Just seeing the effect it had on my peers, and students that I didn’t even know — that’s what pushed me to want to get involved,” said the now 20-year-old King’s College student.
Tetreault joined the Sarnia-Lambton Youth Suicide Prevention Committee and began working to raise awareness and education about mental health. That’s when an opportunity with Jack.org came up.
The Canadian, youth-led mental health organization was hosting its first national summit in 2013, and Tetreault was invited to attend, along with students from across Canada.
“We just wanted to learn about what other students were doing to combat mental health issues as well as suicides in their own communities,” said Tetreault.
“And the summit is the only national network of youth-to-youth engagement in mental health, so it was a very good fit with what we were already doing.”
Tetreault was so inspired by the work done by jack.org, that he started a chapter at King’s College, where he’s now in his third year of studies. He’s also a Jack Talks speaker, visiting high schools to help fight the stigma, and most recently, was hired to work as one of three leaders of the 2016 summit, running March 4-6.
“I got to work at the Jack headquarters in Toronto all summer, planning the summit, which has really transformed since I first went in 2013,” he said of the three-day conference is held in Toronto and includes 200 students from across Canada.
“It’s all about giving students tangible skills and strategies that they can take back to their own communities.”
Tetreault said he has seen great strides made, especially in his hometown of Sarnia.
“Back when I was in high school there really wasn’t a lot of discussion, and people didn’t understand what mental health meant,” he said. “But things started happening, through the suicide prevention committee and other grassroots organizations popping up, and I think the awareness piece has really been implemented in Sarnia. So youth are a lot more aware of what mental health means, how to take care of it, and how to help others who are struggling.
“I’ve seen a lot of positive change.”