- Nov 15, 2017
Patrick Hickey, HBA ’19, knows firsthand that small things can make a big difference. He has seen how one action can have a ripple effect.
A few years ago, Hickey organized the inaugural Wholly Heart Wellness Day at Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s, N.L. All teachers and students are given a professional development day with the option to instead attend a full day of workshops and speakers on mental health and wellness at the school. The event was such a success that Hickey then organized a provincial mental wellness conference, Mental Health Matters, where students from 30 high schools in Newfoundland and Labrador attended workshops and were empowered to organize their own wellness days.
“The best part for me is to see how it has caught on elsewhere and people have taken it on in their own way and started something in their own communities,” said Hickey.
Hickey received the Young Humanitarian Award for Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canadian Red Cross Power of Humanity Awards Dinner on Nov. 15 for his contributions to mental health awareness.
He was honoured along with Humanitarian Award recipient Dr. Andrew Furey, an orthopedic trauma surgeon who created a volunteer medical task force in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
“It’s an honour to be recognized alongside Dr. Furey and the past recipients of this award and by the community that I value so much,” said Hickey. “A lot of community members were there to show support for humanitarian efforts and mental health, which is really important because we need to continue these conversations.”
Promoting mental health awareness
Hickey’s work as a mental health advocate began with a conversation with his high school guidance counsellor, Boyd Perry. After watching someone close to him live with mental illness, Hickey told Perry something needed to be done to promote mental health awareness. Perry agreed and worked with him on the mental wellness event at the school.
“I felt compelled to do something. The compassion in my head and in my heart woke up. It was definitely a moment that kind of hit me that something had to happen,” he said. “I’m really fortunate that when I wanted to do something, my whole province was on board. It seemed like everyone had this idea that we had to do something. It was really serendipitous.”
Hickey’s dedication to the cause continues today. A couple of years ago at Western University, he met Gabi Foss, who is now also an HBA1 student, and joined North in Focus, which Foss co-founded. The youth-run organization leads mental health workshops in Northern Canadian communities. Hickey has led workshops for youth in the Inuit communities of Kangiqsujuaq in Quebec and Nain in Labrador. At separate times, both Foss and Hickey had previously participated in Students on Ice, a charitable organization that leads educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. During Hickey’s 2014 Students on Ice trip to Nunatsiavut, his roommate from Nunavut lost a friend to suicide and commented that it had happened before.
“This gave me a personal view on all the statistics we had heard about suicide rates in the North,” said Hickey. “I was expecting to head North to learn about climate change and bacteria in the water and things like that, but instead I learned a lot about the people.”
Advocating for change
As a Ralph M. Barford Loran Scholar, Hickey was able to intern as an assistant policy analyst with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Through his connection with Christopher Canning, Manager of the Commission’s Knowledge Exchange Centre, Hickey continues to participate in the Commission’s Youth Council and advises on ongoing and future projects.
At Ivey, Hickey is also motivated by the emphasis on thinking about the community.
“In a lot of the cases we’ve done, you can really see that the community in which a business operates has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. I think it’s great that in everything we do here at Ivey, you can see the importance of people and taking care of people,” he said. “If we can all care for each other, maybe we don’t even need to care for ourselves.”
Although Hickey never aimed to be a mental health advocate, he said he’ll likely be dedicated to the cause forever.
“I’ve definitely learned to just try and be an everyday mental health champion. It’s not about the big events, or conferences, or awards. If you can recognize people’s feelings and how they’re doing on a daily basis, I think that’s the biggest thing we can do,” he said. “If we can all just be a bit more compassionate in our daily lives, we can make a difference.”