Team

unna-funnyuna
UNA, Founder / Executive Director

“My personal mission is to seek out, notice and give a voice to the beauty, strength and potential that is often less obvious… YouthSpeak was inspired by lived experience within my own family. My son, Gavin was one of our first youth speakers sharing his story during our inaugural year; until he died on his 19th birthday in a weather-related car accident – July 18th, 2004. Gavin will forever be known, loved and respected for his gift of encouraging others to be themselves. Ten years and two months later my eldest son, Kyle took his own life. He struggled with bipolar disorder for many years. Giving value and meaning to the challenges we go through is a founding principal behind this work – it brings to light the strengths that are often unseen and empowers people to create a new path.”

We are now offering workplace Lunch ‘N Learns: Mental Health Self-Care and Youth Mental Health 

adam
ADAM, Youth Facilitator

“Be yourself; Everyone else is taken… Going through my early adolescents experiencing depression and anxiety I never really thought that I would ever feel normal. I engaged in a lot of negative self-talk making it hard for me to be myself. Feeling like I was alone in my feelings I looked to negative coping strategies to deal with these troubling thoughts and feelings. I was only able to pull myself out of negativity by using dance as a form of self expression. Through movement I was able to better understand my emotions, see my mind in a new light, and make healthier choices concerning my mental health and well being. Today I hope to inspire others through sharing my experiences, helping young people see the value in emotional“

erin
ERIN, Youth Facilitator

"We don't need to understand to offer understanding...I have struggled with debilitating anxiety since I was 6 years old. This coupled with other challenges, including the loss of my mother at a young age, has affected nearly every aspect of my life. I hit rock bottom and plunged into a serious depression when I went off to college and have worked hard since to become the individual I am today. It takes daily dedication and perseverance to maintain. I believe the adversity I have endured has made me stronger, and I love using this strength to educate and help others who may be facing similar challenges. It is my mission to inspire self-love, acceptance, and understanding.”

kobby
KOBBY, Youth Facilitator

“Never let someone’s opinion on you become your reality…Through life I have always been stuck in a victim’s mentality. I would always allow people’s thoughts and opinions control my life. I had a lot of self-hate in me and I never truly knew who I was. In high school, I lost one of my closest friends and from there I would bottle up any bad situations that would occur and that really took a toll on me. I thought I could handle everything on my own but it led me into struggling with severe depression and anxiety. I found it extremely difficult to open up to someone and it caused me to make some bad decisions through life. Dealing with these struggles, I started writing my thoughts on paper and then began writing poetry. Slowly, I started to see the beauty in life and that there is beauty in the struggle. I will never let someone’s opinion control my world. Now it’s my mission to use my voice to inspire change through vivid stories and different perspectives"

lolita
LOLITA, Youth Facilitator

“Self love is the greatest medicine…A lot of my early years I was exposed to toxic relationships and unhealthy communication styles. Not having the proper support and guidance ultimately led me to start unhealthy relationships of my own and using unhealthy coping mechanisms. The difficulties I faced during high school caused me to dive deeper into these toxic relationship and allowed me to develop unhealthy communication tactics. After suffering from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. I knew I needed help. Dealing with these obstacles helped me to realize that in order to love someone else you must first love yourself and this started my journey to healing and loving myself unconditionally. These experiences allowed me to develop strength of character, independence and resiliency. Today I know the importance of self love and being the creator of your own destiny.”

sara-funnysara
SARA, Youth Facilitator

“I have accepted my past and am ambitiously looking forward to helping others understand that they can be who they want to be, and live the life they want to live. You are enough and will always be enough… Growing up was confusing for me. I struggled with a family life where addiction was present. I learned to bottle up my feelings and constantly strived for perfection. I never felt good enough and suffered with depression and anxiety most of my life. Years later I was using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with my inner turmoil. After a friend died by suicide and a trauma in my early adult years happened I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The ups and downs are still a struggle everyday but now I understand how to cope and what steps I need to take to be the best version of me. Living with a mental health condition will always affect my life but it does not have to define it. Learning to not compare myself to others and think positively has helped the most. “

robbie-funnyrobbie
ROBBIE, Youth Facilitator

“There is power in your voice, so let others hear what you have to say…Growing up, my childhood was just one traumatic event after another. From being overpowered by an adult, to losing both my parents, to constant bullying and struggling with depression and anxiety, my life was anything but sunshine and rainbows. But a good deed from people I didn’t even know helped me back into the light and gave me confidence to use my voice. Today, my goal is to give back to the community for motivating me and helping me through those tough times. By using my voice and sharing my experiences, this will motivate others to open up and use the power in their voice.”

mallory
MALLORY, Youth Trainer

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”. –Anne Frank…Having the opportunity to interact with youth speakers and students, I have observed the power in sharing personal stories. As a registered social worker, this passage has always resonated as it reminds me that while life is full of challenges, life is also full of overcoming. Small moments can make big impacts. When I am able to connect with a student; let them know that I am an ear to listen, remind them someone out there gets you, I bear witness to the positivity these small gestures bring. YouthSpeak has provided me with the opportunity to spread optimism, practice using my voice and continue the conversation regarding the importance of mental health education for all.

Alex
ALEX, Speaker

“If I have learned one thing throughout my journey, it's that anyone can draw strength through adversity. I spent most of my life living with a different name, a different appearance and a different gender. I realised that I was transgender (female transitioning to male or FTM) when I was in my late teens, and it was a revelation that changed my life. Most of my life I struggled with battles involving bullying, depression, anxiety and eating disorders, but it wasn't until I reached out to the people in my life that real change began to happen. Being able to talk about what I was going through so openly helped me change a lot of the negative choices I was making, and helped me gain support to make more positive ones. All of these battles made me the man that I am today, both physically and mentally. My dream is to be able to help people understand that no matter what is going on, there is hope at the end of the road, and that things always get better.”

bianca
BIANCA, Speaker

“Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems…Growing up I always felt different. I struggled with major anxiety and low self esteem. I was bullied in school and went through different forms of sexual trauma throughout my life, so I turned to substances in order to escape. This only led me to attract more negative experiences and made my life very unmanageable. It took me ten years of compulsive and self destructive behaviour to learn that I suffer from alcoholism, a spiritual malady, and that it was a big part of why I perceived things the way I did even before I took my first drink. After reaching a point where things got very dark, I sought help and am glad I did. Today is a never ending journey of learning who I am aside from the disease. Accepting my alcoholism, led me to my solution so I try to apply this to many things. Unlike before, where I was in constant resistance, I’ve learned to accept things instead, and it’s made my life a happier one. Today, I live a life based on spiritual principles and I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have. A strong faith, a good support network, journaling, nature, meditation, yoga, and creativity... These are all things that help me in my recovery and connect me to the divine in me and in all of us. I am inspired to use my experience to spread awareness on what alcoholism really is and help kill the stigma, showing people they are not alone and that there is a way to grow through the pain. If I can touch the heart of just one person through my experience, then I have succeeded."

danie
DANIE, Speaker

“I am who I am with all my faults and my mistake” - Rm (BTS)…I really connect with this message because in the beginning of it all, I hated that life was hard and I made so many mistakes constantly. I was a small town girl, feeling like I am really living in a lonely world with problems like depression, anxiety, and discovering my gender identity and my sexuality. I felt so alone all the time because my problems consumed me and I couldn’t tell anyone because I thought I would be a bother to the people around me. But when I start getting myself the help I needed, and a little help with a push from my loved ones who were concerned for me, I flourished! I now love myself with my gender fluidity, pansexuality, ADHD, depression and anxiety. It may cause challenges for me, but I have learned to get through it. I am now a small town human being, loving myself in every way possible.”

davedave
DAVE, Speaker

“Be your true self and seek your own approval and acceptance above anyone else’s…Growing up, I experienced a lot of negativity which prompted me to form negative views of myself and the world. While trying to find how I fit in and searching for acceptance from peers, I pursued substances which led me to feeling like I had to hide certain parts of myself or supress and push them away. This led to pushing loved ones away in the process, feeling very poorly about everything and coming very near to losing my life. I realized my vast reserves of personal strength, courage, and positivity when I committed to changing my reality into something I would be proud of and happy with. Today I work on continuing this positive self talk, self acceptance, and love towards others to keep myself looking up and towards a bright future. Always searching for acceptance outside of myself and being hurt in the process, it wasn’t until I started to accept and love myself that I overcame the negativity that I thought doomed me.”

david-funnydavid
DAVID, Speaker

“At the end of the day, it's you who has to live with yourself, so it’s important to be happy with who you are…

I was never completely sure about my identity and once I reached a certain age, I started to experience depression and anxiety because of it. This lead to me isolating myself and using negative coping tools as attempts to feel better. It took a lot of persistence and difficult conversations to be at the point that I am today, and because of it I learned that I need to make sure I'm always happy with the person I am. Realizing this and taking the steps I needed to feel more comfortable and happy with myself made me significantly more confident, successful and self-aware. Building a proper support system also greatly contributed to my success. Today, I continuing to work on putting my mental well-being before anything and figuring out what kinds of things do and don't help me. Life is a journey of falling down and getting back up and I am learning to embrace that..

hibba-funnyhibba
HIBBA, Speaker

"You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. " - Dr. Seuss

“Sometimes it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But if you keep going, eventually you'll reach it. A lot of events have transpired throughout my life that have shaped me into who I am today. Having gone through depression, anxiety, and psychosis, I have overcome many obstacles. There was a time in my life when I had no hope for my future. But after learning how to cope with it, I now know that whatever life throws at me, I'll get through it.”

Jacqueline
JACQUELINE, Speaker

I was a victim of bullying and cyberbullying throughout elementary school just because I learn differently. This resulted in painful, long-lasting consequences that cannot be ignored. For many years I was embarrassed and thought I was the only one who experienced bullying. I began to believe the terrible words that were said about me and I lost my self-confidence. Now, I refuse to let others define me. Rather than dwell on the negative, I am making a difference. I now feel comfortable to open up and use my life story as a teachable moment for students, parents and educators. Bullying should not be considered a “right-of-passage”- it is not to be ignored. The mental health repercussions are frightening as both victims and perpetrators have a greater propensity to depression in later life. Will you join me on my personal mission to eradicate bullying?

josh
JOSH, Speaker

"Always stay true to yourself and uplift others who need help along the way…I was diagnosed with the conditions Tourette Syndrome and OCD entering my first year of high school. As a result, I endured insurmountable bullying, which triggered the onset of early stage depression. I started getting bullied really bad in high school and people called me names. I was a bit heavier too, and I started getting tics in grade 9. I was bullied in school, and other places as well. I’m a big fan of rock and heavy metal music. The music has influenced me to write about my struggles. Now I write to uplift others suffering like I once did and I started getting into fitness in high school. My family was always been the light in the dark for me," he says. "They always told me I’m bigger and stronger than my struggles. Those words have helped me become my toughest.

kade-funnykade
KADE, Speaker

“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned, through life’s disappointments and countless rewards, is the cruciality of knowing one’s self…The notion of seeing yourself as a best friend or an ally of sorts, is as difficult as it is worthwhile. In my experience, most of what makes life meaningful tends to be just that; Worthy of every ounce of struggle. Still, when I look at my past or pass my reflection in a coffee shop window, I thank my friends and loved ones for sticking by me through everything. That gratitude, in itself - is a brave step towards a life that makes us all proud, regardless of our differences.”

roxie-funnyroxie
ROXIE, Speaker

“Always remembering that in time, this too shall pass…

I spent a large portion of my life staring at the floor, not having the confidence to look up, being too afraid of falling on my face by the obstacles in front of me to change. Living with mental illness throughout my life taught me about the other side of things, that living with an illness does not make me any less than. Having been bullied for so many years I was unable to stand on my two feet without living in constant fear. I was ridden with anxiety and panic while doing the most basic things. I resorted to negative coping skills that caused me to rethink my whole perspective on life. Having these issues helped me realize my potential emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I am finally able to be who I want to be, live the life that I have dreamed of.

shawn
SHAWN, Speaker

“A smile can hide so many feelings, fear, sadness heartbreak, but it also shows one other thing strength…

After going through anxiety, in grade 4 being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and depression due to bullying i was afraid to talk to other about my feelings and wanting to drop out of school. Now I can say being thankful from all the support systems that i am currently am with, and having a very supportive family i feel more encouraged to talk to others about how I feel and even being an advocate for others who have intellectual disabilities i can now speak for others and show that you are capable to prove that your disability is more of an ability and apparently now when i meet other they say that i have such a contagious smile.”

tia
TAISIA, Speaker

“Living with Borderline Personality Disorder has affected every single aspect of my life…The violent mood swings, the black-and-white thinking, and the constant suicidal ideation made every single day feel like a climb up a mountain. It’s something that will always be a part of me, but It’s taken me many years to learn that it does not have to define me. After a dangerous battle with drugs, homelessness, and self-harm, I’m finally able to live a fulfilling life despite my illness. Getting the right help has been life-changing for me. My past doesn’t define me. I was once a high-school dropout and an addict. I am now sober, a college graduate, and a university student. I am not my diagnosis.”

trish
TRISH, Speaker

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. - Bernard M. Baruch.

“I grew up in a small community which was great but everyone knew each other. So anything you did didn’t ever leave your side. Over the last 18 years, I’ve faced bullying, body image issues and been very anxiety prone and it happened by the same kids that I grew up with. It has taken a lot of courage to finally be able to be honest about my issues and about how kids who don’t think they’re saying something that hurts actually hurts more than they will ever know. As I began university I learned that there is more to friendship then having fake friends, being petty and rumours. Being apart of YouthSpeak has taught me that I’m not always going to be perfect but that there will be people around me that love me no matter what. Today, I’m working on empowering girls to do more than they ever dreamed and working on empowering students to realize that one word can change a person's life.”

varahi
VARAHI, Speaker

“My whole life I always thought my self worth was determined by others. I never learned about the importance of mental health. At the age of four I worried about getting a job and making money. A child shouldn't worry about this, but I did. I felt the way my brain worked was different and since everyone’s brain works differently and talking about emotions is something most people avoid I just kept it inside for a really long time. It was only in my first year of high school that I learned the importance of talking about mental health. Even though talking about it was hard, it was one of the best decisions I made. I hope by telling my story I can show that things do get better with time and emphasize the importance of asking for help.”

 

Training Youth speakers training includes leadership and speaking skills, SafeTalk, and various self-regulation tools such as Brain Fitness, Mindfulness, Emotional Freedom Technique.

CURRENTLY RECRUITING YOUTH SPEAKERS

If you know someone or are someone who may a have a personal story and message to share with other youth:

Please Contact office@youthspeak.ca or 905-967-0604

Interested In Becoming A Youth Speaker

Speaker Application

WE ARE CURRENTLY RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS

Our volunteers are a valued and integral part of the organization. Current volunteer opportunities include:

Board of Directors

Event planning

Marketing/social media support

Student hours at events

Administrative support

Sharing special skills with team of youth speakers

Proposal-writing

Volunteer Application 

If you would like to chat more about volunteering with YouthSpeak, please contact Una Wright at 905-967-0604 or una@youthspeak.ca

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