Jacob Halloran is a busier university student than most. A co-captain on the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s cross-country team, he is in his last year of studying medical sciences. He is also a part of jack.org, an organization that raises awareness about mental health.
Halloran’s involvement with the charity started when he was in high school. In his Grade 10 year, a group of students from St. Francis-Xavier University came to his school, Guysborough Academy, and did a presentation about jack.org. At the time, it was a new organization, having been founded in 2010.
“I was with a gender sexuality alliance club for my high school at the time and the idea was love is love and everybody should be able to express themselves,” said Halloran. “The idea with jack.org was sort of the same. If you are struggling with mental health, you should be able to reach out and be able to get help.”
Driven by that goal of open communication and acceptance, Halloran became involved with jack.org. Now studying at Dalhousie, he has continued with that involvement. He has started a jack.org chapter on Dalhousie’s Studley campus to make resources more accessible for people struggling with mental health.
Halloran says that the chapters are always looking for students to help volunteer, if they are interested. The jack.org website provides resources for students to learn new skills that range from how to engage and motivate an audience, to how to respond to a suicide at your school and how to tell a story safely.
Halloran is also a part of the Jack Talks program, “mental health presentations delivered by young people to young people,” according to their website. It trains university students to do an hour-long presentation to high school students explaining what mental health is about, says Halloran.
Last year, he did around 20 of these talks at schools across Nova Scotia.
Identifying the issues
One technique that he learned from jack.org to help identify mental health issues is considering three things: “big impact, really intense and long lasting.”
Halloran uses an example of anxiety. If it’s lasting a long time, like throughout an entire undergraduate degree, and intense enough to have a big impact on your life — “[If] it’s affecting your ability to go out and have social interactions with friends and […] it’s changing what you used to enjoy and changing your normal behaviours, those might be signs” of a mental health issue.
Halloran has not been diagnosed with a mental illness. His drive is to help others overcome the daily adversity and struggle of having mental health issues. He believes that the more people talk about mental health, the better it will be for the community. Programs like jack.org and initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk promote the start of the conversation, but it’s up to everyone to carry it forward.
“It is a conversation that everyone should be involved in,” Halloran says.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Jacob Halloran founded both the Studley and Sexton campus chapters of jack.org. While Halloran founded Dal’s Studley chapter of jack.org, Laura Flick is the founder of the Sexton chapter. The Dalhousie Gazette apologizes for the error.