Interview with an Inspiring Advocate for Mental Health, Noelle Thundathil

Noelle Thundathil – Student at St. Francis High School

I was fortunate enough to interview Noelle Thundathil, a grade 12 student at St. Francis High School. She is currently a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Youth Council as Team Leader, as well as a Co-Chair on the Mayor’s Youth Council. Through this blog post, I hope to share some of Noelle’s inspiring stories and her passion for mental health! 

Why is mental health an important topic to you?

Growing up, I have been surrounded by people who have been impacted by mental health and I have also faced a mental health illness in the past. Therefore, I have always thought that reaching out to other youth my age was really important in order to provide them with the necessary information to endure through a mental health illness that they could be suffering from themselves as well as break the stigmas surrounding the topic. To me, it’s really important that we advocate for mental health because the more people that are aware about it, the more we can provide support for those struggling to overcome mental health illnesses. 

What advice would you give someone who is going through difficult times? 

The advice that I would give to them is that they shouldn’t take any negativity from anyone. Mental health illness affects so many people and the best way to endure through it is to receive help from someone. This could be done in ways like telling someone what you are going through and sharing your story. As soon as you share your story, you can get support from them as well as give support. The only way to receive support is by asking for it which can seem challenging, but I believe it is the best way to overcome the difficult times. 

How has poor mental health affected your life, whether it be you personally or those you know? 

Mental health has affected both myself and those around me. I actually would like to share an inspiring story of my friend, who suffered from seizures growing up. She was able to take her past experiences and use it to share her story with others. Now she is a speaker and she is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Youth Council with me.  Sometimes, she even speaks at the events we hold and talks about her past, which I find really cool. More specifically for me, mental health has affected every single part of my life. My mental health illness has really impacted my self-confidence, which I only realized at some point in my life. After realizing that I can’t continue to live the way I did, I started getting more involved within my own community. As soon as I started getting more involved, it brought significant changes to my whole life, not only affecting my self-confidence level but also the direction I have been taking ever since. 

Why do you think mental health is something people don’t tend to talk about? 

I think people are not aware  of the impact of the stigma revolving around mental health . They tend to have a hard time understanding the implications of it. When topics like suicide and depression are brought up, most people feel uncomfortable about it and don’t know how to address it. I think that the more people start talking about it, the more familiar the topic will become to us, providing more ways in which help can be received for those suffering with mental health. 

What has helped you to practice self-care and overcome your struggles?

For me, music and community involvement really helped in overcoming the struggles I was facing. I have been very interested in singing and playing instruments but also volunteering to get more involved within the community. The more that I got to talk to others and take on  leadership roles, the more that I was able to overcome my illness. 

How has your (mental health related) work through these leadership roles made an impact in your community? 

By taking on new initiatives and leadership roles, I was able to help others facing mental health illnesses through my working for advocating for these issues. Through the work I do in the councils [Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Youth Council and Mayor’s Youth Council], I was able to raise the awareness for these topics and also provide people with more information on how to help those suffering from a mental health illness. This includes things like how to identify mental health illnesses and how to share the knowledge and awareness about mental health. I believe that the more people that know about it, the easier it is to combat these issues. 

Since you work with various youth within the community, what have you noticed about mental health for youth and what is one change you would like to see? 

One change I would like to see in youth is more people becoming aware of the topic. I feel like more events like information sessions and presentations held at schools are needed in order to help youth understand the importance of these issues. Personally, I see a lot of the other students at my school who don’t really know about the issues as well or how it impacts the people around them. 

#Mental health