The student organization supports and guides those who need assistance
University can be challenging, and some undergraduates do not know about the free counselling and psychological services offered at the university. However, Jack.org Concordia ensures the student body is aware of the resources available to them.
Jack.org Concordia is a branch of the larger, national Jack.org network. The goal of this network, made up of young leaders, is to change the way people think and talk about mental health.
The organization was founded five years ago after a young man named Jack Windeler died by suicide, Jack.org Concordia’s president, Alexis Lahorra, explained. Windeler was set to begin his first year of university but was struggling with mental health and did not reach out for help. In the wake of his son’s passing, his father, Eric Windeler, created Jack.org with the help of his colleagues and friends. Today, the nation-wide organization is changing the way students think about mental health.
Jack.org Concordia is a registered club with the Concordia Student Union. Ten executive members make up the team, and they work in a non-pyramid way—if someone has an idea, they all support each other and work as a team. “The cool thing about the team is that we are all from different programs,” said Lahorra. “We didn’t know it would be so diverse, but everyone has a story to share.”
Lahorra initially had the idea to start Jack.org Concordia. During her first year of university at Concordia, she found the transition hard, coming from CEGEP. “My friends noticed that I wasn’t attending classes and that my behaviour changed,” said Lahorra. After she learned that free services were offered at school, she realized that recovery was possible. She realized that if this happened to her, it must be happening to other students, too. She decided it was time to end that silence and started the club during her second year at Concordia.
Jack.org is divided into three parts: The Jack Chapters, Jack Summit, and Jack Talks.
The Jack Chapters are where students come together to ensure that the conversation about mental health is open to everyone. The chapters host fun activities, such as open mic nights to raise awareness for mental health. Many Canadian universities have Jack Chapters, including Concordia and McGill.
The Jack Summit, held in Toronto, brings together 200 student leaders to develop strategies for positive impact and to speak about mental health as a group.
Finally, there are Jack Talks, a program which trains young speakers on how to give talks to the students and to the community. Lahorra is part of this program—she was a speaker at a high school in Kingston, Ont., and at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. and world health organization joint summit on mental health.
The Jack.org Concordia’s events are designed to open up the conversation about mental health and promote mental health services. Their first event was held last year at Kafein on Bishop Street. The event featured singing, dancing and poem recitals—students were encouraged to openly share their personal stories.
“It was so powerful,” said Lahorra about the open mic night. “By seeing all the performers share their stories, more people decided to do the same and [take] the stage.”
The Concordia chapter also had a movie night where students were served coffee, tea and were provided with colouring tools. “Colouring is a good way to de-stress, we’ve found,” said Lahorra.
This year, Lahorra said the chapter is planning on hosting an event including panelists from the psychology department professors and those who wish to share their personal stories.