February 23, 2017

Youth Against Mental Illness Stigma (YAMIS) Conference will run on Wednesday March, 1st.

Loizza Aquino may not be a household name – yet. But she’s already a big player in Manitoba’s student mental health and social justice circles.

Aquino is the social savvy Grade 12 student from Vincent Massey Collegiate and lead organizer of the Youth Against Mental Illness Stigma (YAMIS) conference. If it’s anything like last year, YAMIS 2017 will draw hundreds of students, teachers, school counselors and anyone interested in youth mental health issues to morning of hope, help and compassion.

“It’s no exaggeration to say this event is a life-changer for some youth,” says Aquino. “The environment we create is welcoming. It’s a safe, judgment-free zone – and the entire event is geared to the issues that challenge teens the most.

“There’s also an open mic component that’s the most powerful platform we have for sharing our experiences. It’s raw and honest communication, and yes there are plenty of tears.”

Aquino says whether the issue is suicide prevention, gender issues, grief, social anxiety, or one of countless others, there are people and resources to connect with at YAMIS.

She has felt one of those issues acutely when a close friend of hers died by suicide. ”The toll that took not only on my mental health, but on that of hundreds of people who knew him was immense.” If I can do anything to get students my age to bring these issues out in the open and not suffer through such anguish, that’s what I live for.

While previous venues have capped attendance at a maximum of 200 attendees, this year’s event at the Burton Cummings Theatre, should push the numbers closer to 600.

Aquino says YAMIS 2017 will run from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. Reservations are not required, but are recommended for large groups/schools to ensure being seated together. Go to http://www.peaceofmind204.com/ for more information.