Calgary student launches mental health support during challenging year

CALGARY — It’s been an especially-challenging year for students.

COVID-19 canceled graduations, forced learning online and took away a social aspect of life so many rely on.

It’s an unexpected twist for young adults, and so one Calgary teenager is hoping to lend them some consistency through a new program.

Isabella Burton is the new leader of Peerify’s Calgary chapter.

It’s a youth non-profit aimed at guiding teens and young adults through a difficult time.

Burton got involved with the Ontario-based organization after looking for some support herself. Just like most students, she takes lessons online, works online and socializes online.

“It’s quite claustrophobic,” Burton said. “You get that feeling where you’re just stuck in that one moment in time. I had a lot of friends saying the exact same thing.”

Hearing her classmates were also struggling pushed Burton to expand the Peerify name. The Calgary branch already has over 40 volunteers and is helping young people across the province.

“We speak with youth online about what they’re going through and just kind of give them an extra hand of support,” Burton said.

The service offers anonymous help over text, phone or video chat.

Health professionals are involved, but it’s young people like Burton who are doing most of the talking.

Volunteer Luis Martinez Hoyos says that’s an important aspect.

“You can put yourselves in other people shoes and foster a connection with your shared experiences,” he told CTV News. “(Those looking for help) are kind of stuck in a limbo between childhood and adulthood, so I think it’s crucial to help them foster emotional and social habits to flourish as confident adults.”

Peerify also offers bi-weekly workshops that focus on valuable skills for young adults.

To learn more, search for “Peerify Calgary” on Instagram.

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