Q&A w/ Jack Summit Co-Lead Marzian Alam

Jack Summit is happening in Toronto March 4-6. Our co-founders Kayley & Kyle are returning as speakers, so we caught up with Marzian - this year's co-lead - in a little Q&A. 



WYL: Tell us a bit about Jack.org

M: Jack.org was founded by Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington in 2010, after they lost their oldest son, Jack, to suicide.

Jack was just 18 years old - a first year student at Queen’s University. Jack was bright and funny; and he was struggling with mental illness.

Jack didn’t ask for help. He either didn’t know how to, or he was too afraid to reach out.

Jack’s loss devastated his family, shocked the Queen’s community and started a movement. Following his death, Jack’s parents, Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington, asked friends and family to make donations to Kids Help Phone in Jack’s memory. The outpouring of support that followed laid the foundation for Jack.org.

Today, Jack.org works with a national network of young leaders to end the stigma that surrounds mental health.

  • Through the 85 Jack Chapters at high schools, colleges, and universities across Canada students are working to change attitudes towards mental health in their communities.
  • Through the Jack Talks program, young leaders are trained to share their stories and experiences in a safe and engaging way.
  • Jack Summit is Canada’s only national student-led mental health innovation summit. During the 3-day event, students develop the skills and strategies needed to end the stigma around mental health.

 Jack Summit

WYL: Explain the Jack Summit as if we're strangers who have never heard of it before.

M: Jack Summit is a three-day event that brings student leaders from every province in Canada to downtown Toronto to find ways to end the stigma around mental health. The weekend is filled with exciting performances, engaging speakers, and skill-building workshops. This year is the 4th Jack Summit, and it will be held in downtown Toronto on March 4th-6th.

This year’s summit is focused on building the skills that our network of student leaders need to change the attitudes around mental health in their communities. With the help of our amazing speakers (like Kayley & Kyle), workshop leaders, and a few spontaneous dance breaks, we hope to equip students to use the strategies developed at the summit to create change at home.

WYL: What's your role and how did you get involved?

M: I’m Marzian, and I am a Co-Lead for Jack Summit 2016. I came across the opportunity on the Jack.org Facebook page and immediately applied for a chance to contribute to something I believe in.

Jack Summit is a unique opportunity for the Jack.org network to learn from each other. Along with Ameera Ladak and Travis Tetreault, I began planning the summit during our summer internship at the Jack.org head office. The summit changes every year, so we spent the summer laying the groundwork for this year’s event.

We were then joined by Dexter Nyuurnibe, Ray Gutierrez, Grace Kapustianyk, and Kay-Lynne Collier to complete the core team. Together we are making sure that this summit will be filled with opportunities to grow (and, of course, fun!)

Jack Summit 2016 Team

WYL:  What do you think is the biggest misconception young people have about mental illness?

M: Often when we say “mental health”, people hear “mental illness”, and feel the need to distance themselves. What people don’t realize is that while 1 in 5 people may experience a mental illness in their lifetime, 5 in 5 people have mental health. We all have mental health so we all need to care about it. That’s why organizations like Jack.org and Wear Your Label are so important; they are talking openly and honestly about mental health and make that conversation accessible to everyone. 

"What people don’t realize is that while 1 in 5 people may experience a mental illness in their lifetime, 5 in 5 people have mental health."

WYL: What's your favorite thing about Jack.org & Jack Summit?

M: My favourite thing about both Jack.org and Jack Summit is the sense of community that comes along with being a part of it. It’s amazing to see so many of my peers working together towards the same goal.

My favourite part about being on the core team was reading through the Jack Summit applications. This year we received almost 900, and the team reads every single one! It may seem tedious, but reading through them gave me me the chance to get to know the Jack.org network a little better. I got an inside look at the stories shared by student leaders across Canada. I am constantly inspired by the people involved with Jack.org and I can’t wait to see what this year’s delegates will bring to the summit.


WYL: If you could leave everyone with one message about mental health what would it be? 

M: Every single one of us – 5 in 5 – has mental health. We all stand to benefit from safer, more supportive communities where there is no shame in reaching out or speaking up about mental health.

This also means we all have a role to play. We can’t stand by and wait for someone else to start the conversation. To transform the way Canadians think about mental health, we all have to be involved.



Fave thing to do for self-care?

Listening to pop music while painting my nails. Nothing relaxes me like a fresh manicure!


Ball pit or flash mob?

Ball pit!


Fave TED Talk?

I listen to Brene Brown’s Talk on the Power of Vulnerability all the time. But if I have to say which Talk has inspired me the most towards action, it would of course have to be Eric Windeler’s Talk on “How to Save a Life” from TEDx Queens.


Connect with Jack.org on twitter: @jackdotorg
And the Jack Summit here: facebook.com/jackorgsummit

1 Response


February 28, 2016

It is an important issue. Thanks to the organizers.

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