When you experience struggle, when you get hospitalized for a mental illness, when you experience stigma that makes you feel crazy, weird, and alone, it can be really easy to get caught up asking, “Why me?” For Jack Talks speaker Nolan, he had a different question. He asked: “How can I make a difference?”
After taking some time to feel more stable and healthy, Nolan applied to be a Talks speaker so that he could use his story to help others. He’d never really had public speaking training before, and was excited to learn how to craft a powerful message.
One thing he really enjoys about Jack Talks is that the speeches can draw students in for a variety of reasons.
“Some students are really drawn to the emotions of the lived experience stories, others are interested in the leadership pieces. Some, like myself, are more curious about how to take action – like how to help a friend, or what symptoms you should look out for.”
Giving Jack Talks all over Ontario has been a really rewarding experience for Nolan. When he thinks back to his first talk, he remembers how nervous he was before hitting the stage. “You just never know how the audience is going to react to it,” Nolan says.
Nolan’s first Jack Talk sparked three students to reach out to their school’s guidance counselor to ask for help with their own struggles; one of whom was self-harming and contemplating suicide.
Often students will come up to Nolan after a talk and share their challenges. “It’s hard to see how many students are stressed and struggling, but I’m glad we give them an environment where they feel like they can open up."
A student story that really hit home for Nolan came from a girl who experienced symptoms of mania, but was unable to recognize the illness and reach out for help. Nolan thought back to his manic episode while transitioning to university. Not knowing anything about Bipolar disorder, or even that he had a predisposition to the disorder, left him hospitalized with a long recovery ahead.
Hearing that this student, after hearing him speak, now knew enough to reach out for help made him hopeful for the future, and excited to keep doing Jack Talks so that more students can recognize symptoms, feel comfortable reaching out for help, and be there for their loved ones.
Asked what motivates him to keep giving Jack Talks, Nolan was quick to answer. “You do it for the hope that even if you don’t see their face, they are going to be impacted positively.”