Guysborough student takes mental health message to Royalty

By Lois Ann Dort    

HALIFAX – “I hope that they went away with a sense of the passion that Canadian youth have for ending the stigma that surrounds mental health particularly youth mental health,” said Jacob Halloran after meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a member of the Jack.org delegation in Victoria, B.C. on October 1.

Halloran, a native of Guysborough who is now in his second year at Dalhousie pursuing a degree in medical sciences, has been an active member of Jack.org for several years, starting in March of 2015 when he attended his first Jack Summit.

Jack.org began after Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington lost their son Jack to suicide in 2010. The Jack Project brings youth to the table to discuss, design and implement initiatives to help end the stigma around mental health. Locally the group is known for starting the Blue Laces campaign, an initiative Halloran was instrumental in implementing.

When asked what initially drew him to The Jack Project Halloran said that his involvement with the Gay-Straight Alliance at Guysborough Academy opened his eyes to the privilege he had experienced as a cis-gendered, white male. “I was seeing that there were people in the LGBTQ+ community who couldn’t express who they are because of the stigma that surrounded that culture. When some students started getting involved with Jack.org at Guysborough Academy and I started hearing the message, it was something similar.

“People with mental illness; they couldn’t reach out, couldn’t express who they were. They were suffering in silence. Because of the stigma. That was something that resonated with me and something I wanted to get involved with.

Halloran could never have imagined that his involvement with Jack.org would lead to an audience with the most famous royals on the planet, Will and Kate. It all fell into place after he answered a call put out by the organization looking for students involved in the program to represent Jack.org at events throughout the year. He had no idea that putting his name in would result in a meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. “I was in disbelief the whole time. I am really still processing it,” said Halloran a week after his 30-hour whirlwind trip to Victoria where he met the Royals.

For Halloran meeting the the Duke and Duchess illuminated the global fight against the stigma of mental health challenges. “This mental health work we’re doing is bigger than Jack.org, it’s bigger than Canada, it’s international. Before I have always been focused on Jack.org and the national network. To see Will and Kate, the work they are doing in the U.K. with their campaign Heads Together; youth mental health, veterans’ mental health, men’s mental health; it is something that affects everyone. People around the world are passionate about helping to end the stigma.”

While meeting the future King of England is hard to top, Halloran said right now he can only think as far ahead as his genetics exam on Wednesday. Truth be told he has a few other things on the go. He’s heading to a Jack.org Summit in March and will run the Boston Marathon in April.