Saskatoon

Northern Pikes singer Jay Semko spreads message of hope to teens struggling with mental health, addiction

Jay Semko doesn't want anyone to suffer alone like he did when he was in high school.

Semko to speak to Evan Hardy Collegiate about his life, music

The Northern Pikes Jay Semko says more people need to be speaking about mental health. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

Jay Semko doesn't want anyone to suffer alone like he did when he was in high school.

Semko said he remembers feeling isolated as a kid, and eventually turned to alcohol and drugs.

"Every time I share a little bit of what I've been through, then that can help others," Semko told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "It makes me feel good."

On Wednesday, the Northern Pikes lead singer will return to Saskatoon's Evan Hardy Collegiate, his old high school, to speak about his struggle with mental health and addiction at a session organized in conjunction with the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan's Partnership Program.

"I started self-medicating," he said.

"Eventually, I had a big crash in my early 20s and ended up spending a month in the psychiatric ward and was diagnosed as (bipolar)."

Over the years, Semko was able to get professional counselling and levelled himself out. 

Eventually, he started speaking publicly about his condition, even bringing a booth representing Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) along on a recent cross-Canada tour.

"We're removing the stigma and letting people know that mental health is health," he said.

"Many of us deal with this and many of us know people that do. And I think the more you are open about this, the more the stigma gets relieved." 

During his presentation, Semko talks about songs he wrote in the past and discusses what he was going through when he wrote them.

"I think it helps to maybe convey the message," he said. "There's the old saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words,' so how many is a song worth?"

Semko said returning to his old high school is meaningful for him, mainly because he wishes he had someone to talk to at that age.

"I think what would've helped me then was just having knowing that I'm not alone, and knowing there are many others that feel the same way as I do."

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