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What's next for mental health advocate Noah Irvine?

Guelph student showed the country he wouldn't be ignored when it came to raising awareness about mental health
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A letter that started out as a project in his Grade 11 Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology class has changed the life of Noah Irvine forever.

He hopes that it is also changing the lives of others along the way.

That letter, sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February of 2017, detailed the loss of Irvine's parents to mental health issues: his mother to suicide and his father to a prescription drug overdose.

Irvine wanted to create awareness, he wanted to create dialogue and he wanted to create change around mental health.

The same letter was later sent to every sitting MP in Canada, 336 in total. Only 40 responded.

He was ignored. He was sent form letters. He was brushed aside. But he didn't give up.

He forced politicians to listen. He forced them to talk about the suicide epidemic in this country and the mental health issues affecting us all.

He called MPs and MPPs, sent more letters and talked to anyone that would listen.

Eventually, with the help of some media attention, they started to.

The politicians started returning letters and phone calls. He showed up at the House of Commons and sat across the table from cabinet ministers. He talked to the Prime Minister on the phone.

Irvine, who will return to GCVI in the fall before hopefully heading to university next year to study political science, plans to keep writing.

"I hope to write every single member of every provincial legislature across Canada. I want to engage everybody," Irvine says.

"By the time this ends I want to say to myself that I wrote every single person that I could possibly write."

He's even sent a letter to the Queen of England.

"Eventually it will end, I can't do this forever. But once I've written everybody, it's up to them."

He talks wherever he's asked to. Be it the political halls in Ottawa, high school civics classes or 80 Rotarians on a Friday afternoon at the Italian Canadian Club.

"I told my story to 80 people here today and they all listened. That's all I ever wanted when I started this thing," he says.

Ideally Irvine would like to see a Ministry of Mental Health in this country, but realizes that's a tall order. A secretariat of mental health is a more attainable goal, he thinks.

He sees the centralization of mental health services as essential.

"There's definitely support for bold new ideas across Canada," he says. "But all levels of government have got to step up.

"There's definitely politicians in Canada that do care and do want to make a difference."

He knows things will slow down when he goes to university, but he says his advocacy for mental health will never end and he's excited to see what other paths it will take in the future.

"It will never end fully, but it might slow down. It might even shift to something else. But I'm still going to keep going.

"Though my parents' deaths were final, their stories don't have to end," he says.

"It won't end."



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