Student Miranda Benoit had the chance to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to discuss mental health
Nineteen student leaders from Jack.org, Canada’s only national network of young leaders working to end the stigma of mental health, met with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Oct. 1. Concordia student Miranda Benoit was one of them.
Benoit, 22, recently moved here from Newfoundland to start her masters degree in psychology. Growing up in a stigma-free environment, she said she was encouraged to talk about mental health. However, she noticed many people around her did not have the same type of environment growing up—so she joined Jack.org. “Jack.org was a wonderful way for me to advocate that other people should also have that right,” Benoit said.
During her studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Benoit found the Jack.org chapter of Grenfell Campus. She is now a volunteer at the Concordia chapter. It was her active involvement with the organization that got her an invitation to meet Their Royal Highnesses.
“It was very exciting,” she said about being given the opportunity. “I think it was a little bit of luck and hard work mixed together.”
Before meeting royalty, the group of nineteen students had to practice their formalities when it came time to meet Their Royal Highnesses. “Some of us met in Toronto for a training on how to address them, and also the safety of being on a boat since we were going to sail one with them,” Benoit said.
While in Toronto, the students also helped organize the upcoming Jack.org Summit that will be hosted there this spring.
When the group landed in Victoria, Benoit said she was nervous, but in the best possible way. “I think it’s huge to have people that are so well-known, with such big following, advocate mental health, she said. “[It] really puts the topic on the big stage.”
Their Royal Highnesses are active advocates themselves, she said. The Duke and Duchess are very much involved with the United Kingdom’s mental health organization called “Heads Together,” which aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing and provide vital assistance for people struggling with mental illness.
“Based on the interactions, they seemed much more interested in learning from us—to understand what our perspective on mental health was,” said Benoit.
The students and their guests of honour were on the boat for an hour. Benoit said The Duke and the Duchess were down to earth as they were taking time with each students to learn from them.
Now that Benoit is back in Montreal, she’s excited to take on the new projects that the Concordia chapter has in store. Their next big event is participating in the Mental Health Walk, organized by Montreal Walks for Mental Health Foundation, a four kilometer walk to help raise public awareness about mental health and eliminate stigma and discrimination towards people living with mental illness. For more information, visit www.mtlwalks.com.