Students in École St Patrick High School's Jack chapter host Taco 'Bout It Day on January 25, 2023. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
Students at a Yellowknife school spent Wednesday combining tacos in a bag with mental health awareness in their own version of Bell Let’s Talk day.
The media giant spends one day each year promoting the destigmatization of mental health through a text-and-tweet campaign. This year, the company says it is committing $10 million to mental health programs.
At Yellowknife’s St Pat’s high school, students concluded the day needed their own approach.
The school’s Jack chapter – its branch of national organization Jack, which promotes mental health resources in schools – decided students should Taco ‘Bout It.
That’s the name they chose for Wednesday’s initiative. Hannah Janes, the Jack chapter’s youth lead, and other chapter members served students tacos in a bag while telling them about mental health resources they can use.
According to Jack, one in seven young people in Canada report having suicidal thoughts. With 75 percent of people diagnosed with a mental illness experiencing symptoms before the age of 25, Jack concludes that youth are “among those most at risk for mental health crises.”
Janes hopes the taco plan encourages students to reach out for help when they need it.
“Especially in our community, since we are so far up north, a lot of youth struggle with mental health – whether it’s depression, anxiety or other things,” Janes told Cabin Radio.
“I feel that coming together, getting our group together and working to promote resources throughout the school is just very helpful for our school’s community.”
‘A comfort food’ for mental health
Isaiah Foss, a Grade 8 student at the school, said tacos in a bag seemed like the best way he could think of to promote mental health.
Foss said it reminded him of a close friend.
“The first time I had a taco in a bag was in 2019. I was at my friend’s cabin and on the last day, his mom was going to make burgers, but she forgot the buns. She decided to whip up this,” he explained, gesturing to his taco and describing a chip bag containing ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and other ingredients.
“It was divine,” Foss recalled.
“Now, taco in a bag reminds me of that two weeks I had with my friend, and it warms my heart to think about it.
“It’s just a very good comfort food, which I think is one of the reasons it was chosen here today. If you’re talking about mental health, it’s a really good, comforting food to have.”
In 2017, British newspaper The Guardian reported that suicides among youth peak during exam season, quoting research that suggested “43 percent of suicides among those aged under 20 in 2014/15 were experiencing academic pressures before their death.” Almost one in three had exams at the time or coming up soon, the newspaper reported.
Grade 8 student Tendesai Mufandaedza said with exams taking place, it’s definitely the time to Taco ’Bout It. Kaylee Alacida, also in Grade 8, agreed.
“I think there’s a lot of people at our school going through stuff,” Alacida said.
“It’s important that they know that there’s people here for them.”