Students join forces to bring youth mental health awareness to Algonquin

Stephanie Dejardin is set to launch Algonquin College’s first Jack.org chapter through the Students’ Association in January 2022. Dejardin is originally from Ottawa, but recently completed her bachelor of science in animal biology at the University of Guelph where she lived for four years. Currently, she’s in her first semester in the medical radiation technology […]
Photo: Supplied by Stephanie Dejardin
Stephanie Dejardin is helping establish a Jack.org chapter at Algonquin College, a youth led movement to end the stigma against mental health and bring empowerment to Canadian youth.

Stephanie Dejardin is set to launch Algonquin College’s first Jack.org chapter through the Students’ Association in January 2022.

Dejardin is originally from Ottawa, but recently completed her bachelor of science in animal biology at the University of Guelph where she lived for four years. Currently, she’s in her first semester in the medical radiation technology program at Algonquin College.

It was during her second year in university where Dejardin heard of Jack.org, a community started by youth for youth to empower other young adults through their mental health journey.

Dejardin attended a few events held by Jack.org at the University of Guelph and when the chapter announced they were looking for executive team members, Dejardin applied.

“I’ve always been very passionate about mental health,” said Dejardin.

Because it was Dejardin’s first time being away from her family and friends she was trying to branch out and develop a good support network. She believed that being around people who also cared about their mental health would be good for her.

Dejardin was first diagnosed with a panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder when she was in high school.

“I feel like I’m in a better place now and I want to be able to help other people get connected to help,” said Dejardin. “That’s pretty much what Jack.org’s goal is, to connect people with resources.”

Sabrina Mastroianni, now a fourth-year neuroscience and psychology student at the University of Guelph, first met Dejardin during her second year of university.

Mastroianni has been involved with Jack.org since her high school years, which was when she took the initiative to start looking after her mental health.

As a child, she began displaying symptoms of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In her teens, she was professionally diagnosed with both, as well as depression.

“Jack.org has been a huge part of my university experience,” said Mastroianni. “I don’t know where I’d be without the team and I just think it’s so important to have that youth-led conversation about mental health and illness. I think it’s been really amazing that Jack.org has been open to hearing so many different perspectives.”

Yasser Siddiqui, who lives in India, has plans to move to Ottawa before the winter semester begins to study marketing management.

Siddiqui has been working as an engineer for six years, and for the past two years, has been working as a mental health advocate through his own start-up.

Siddiqui had seen Dejardin’s Facebook post looking for members.

“The words ‘mental health’ immediately caught my eye,” said Siddiqui. “I got in touch with her to discuss more about what it was about. I found it similar to the kind of work that I’m doing.”

Because Siddiqui isn’t in Ottawa yet, he has noticed that there tends to be a gap in communication.

Regardless of this obstacle, according to Siddiqui, Dejardin has been an amazing co-lead to interact with and ensure that everything is in place.

Everyone on the team has a strong understanding of how important it is to normalize and de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health, which has created a strong foundation for the club.

“We want to bring change to how people talk about, discuss or care about their mental health,” said Siddiqui.

Dejardin wants students to know that there are options out there if they need mental health support or a safe community to talk with — whether it be the people at Jack.org, her club or the college’s resources.

“We’re still looking for team members, so if anyone wants to join we’d greatly appreciate it and it’s not a great commitment of time,” said Dejardin. “Honestly, the experience for me has been worth it. I’ve made lifelong friends and if you wanted to be part of a community project, it’s pretty low key, but we also are a really great community of people who support each other.”

For more information, contact jack.orgalgonquin@algonquinlive.com or follow on Instagram @jack.org_algonquin_chapter.

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