Connie Jakab’s passion for mental health developed because of her sons’ hospitalization for threats of suicide. Despite this challenging experience, she is bringing awareness to youth mental health through her book, Culture Rebel, hosting workshops and family coaching sessions.

Mental health issues in children and teens seem to be a growing crisis.

According to a statistic from the University of Calgary, 55 per cent of young people who visit the hospital are there for reasons related to mental health.

When Jakab’s eldest son was six years old, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Then at eight years old, he was suicidal.

“Depression didn’t show up as sadness, it showed up as anger and aggression,” said Jakab.

Jakab said she didn’t realize at first the effects that her “suck it up” mentality, was having on her son.

“Being more authoritarian was actually creating more anxiety,” she said. “I found that as we went through this crisis, the person who had to change the most in my house was me.”

Jakab said the most pivotal moment for her was when her son was in the hospital and she was speaking with the psychologist.

“I think that we’ve lost connection with each other. We’ve lost connection with meaningful purpose. You hear youth say all the time now they don’t feel like there’s a lot of hope out there.” – Connie Jakab

The psychologist asked her what she does when her son throws these rages, and Jakab said, “Well I send him to his room. Tell him he’s going to be a good boy. That’s when you can come out.” And the psychologist said, “Oh, no, you never send the hurting away from you. You bring them closer.”

This concept profoundly impacted Jakab. She realized there needed to be more moments of connection in her son’s life.

This has been Jakab’s mission now — to learn to create an environment in her home that is based on connection and bringing her kids closer.

Melissa Muñoz, a close friend of Jakab for the past six years, says the Jakab family is consistent in their kids’ lives and “dedicated to their kids and creating a lifestyle that will work for them in a way that they are able to then feel comfortable.”

Deeper connections with youth and the idea of bringing your children closer is what fuels her teachings in her workshops and family coaching sessions.

Jakab believes that parents need to get back in the centre place of their kids’ lives to help them find their meaning.

Queenie Wei, a friend of Jakabs says that “what she’s doing now is really talking to the parents, because if you are (just talking) with the kids, that’s great, but the kids go home to their parents at the end of the day. It takes a village and it’s a holistic approach. So her work now is more focused on parents.”

“I think that we’ve lost connection with each other,” said Jakab. “We’ve lost connection with meaningful purpose. You hear youth say all the time now they don’t feel like there’s a lot of hope out there.”

One of the main ways in which Jakab is working to change this and create places where connection can be had, is through hip-hop resilience workshops in schools. She finds that teens are able to learn about courage, compassion and community through these workshops.

Jakab also hopes that people will be inspired by her book, Culture Rebel, published in 2012, which talks about rebelling against living the status quo and encouraging others to branch out. She also hopes people will be inspired through family coaching sessions and other workshops.

Jakab is getting excited about a conference being hosted this week at Mount Royal University on Jan. 29, for Bell Let’s Talk Day. It will be a time that nonprofit leaders, business owners, mental health professionals, students and teachers come together to talk about their perspective on mental health.

She hopes that by bringing people closer and giving them a space where they can freely talk about their struggles with mental health, will help to end the mental health crisis.

Ultimately, Jakab believes that those who are struggling and hurting just “want someone to get down with them and walk with them.”

Editor: Sadie Johnson | sjohnson@cjournal.ca