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Frustrated by the mental health care system, this Maritimer turned to advocacy

Stacie Smith received an emerging leader award from the federal government in recognition of her work to improve youth mental health.  (Stacie Smith - image credit)
Stacie Smith received an emerging leader award from the federal government in recognition of her work to improve youth mental health. (Stacie Smith - image credit)

Stacie Smith knows how difficult it is for young people to navigate the health-care system, a struggle that inspired years of advocacy.

The 29-year-old living in Halifax learned this week she has received an emerging leader award from the federal government in recognition of her work to improve youth mental health.

"I was super excited, super honoured and just really happy to have gotten it," said Smith, who was nominated by The Sandbox Project, a Canadian charity.

While growing up in New Brunswick, Smith struggled with her mental health and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

During that time, she had difficulties working her way through the mental health system and continues to listen to youth facing similar challenges.

"They may not be in positions that they can join these tables and join these conversations," Smith said. "They may be in a tougher situation."

Smith is co-executive director with the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. She currently works as a youth programmer and teaching assistant while studying for her master's degree in education.

Committed and passionate 

Sara Kirk, a professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University, met Smith about two years ago. She describes her as passionate and committed particularly to youth mental health.

"I think what really sets Stacie apart is that she has given voice to a lot of people who otherwise may not have that opportunity,"  Kirk said. "She's provided leadership in actually advocating for the health and wellness of young people."

Smith said it is encouraging to see policy changes on youth mental health in the Maritimes. She's also been striving to inspire the next generation of young advocates.

"Just knowing that things I'm doing and making changes is kind of what keeps me going and keeps me pushing ahead," she said.

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