Sudbury high school student tries to end stigma surrounding mental health

A high school student in Sudbury, Ont. is working to set up a new program for young people who are struggling with mental health issues.

Josh Tillson motivated to start program for youth after losing his stepfather to suicide

Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School student Josh Tillson is trying to bring a new youth mental health program to Sudbury, Ont. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

A high school student in Sudbury, Ont. is working to set up a new program for young people who are struggling with mental health issues.

Josh Tillson lost his stepfather to suicide in February, 2016, after which, he said he didn't get much help from counseling.

That's led the Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School student to try to bring a program that combines mental and physical health to Sudbury's youth.

"I went through a very dark period in my life where I had a lot of trouble dealing with my own emotions and through that time I found running," he told CBC News.

"When I ran, I felt empowered and it was a really amazing feeling that helped me through that time in my life.

Tillson added that running really allowed him to express his emotions.

The Sudbury teen is not alone.  A Toronto-based charity called Cameron Helps offers youth suicide awareness and prevention programs; it also partners with community groups and schools to bring recreational youth running groups to communities.

It's that type of program Tillson wants to see succeed in the northeast.

"Really I just want to help students like myself," he said.

"I'm seeing the change, the difference it's making in students in southern Ontario that are in this program in the school boards," he continued. "It's massive and I want to be able to bring that to a community like Sudbury that's in desperate need for it."

Tillson said he was surprised to learn how few mental health resources were available to him in Sudbury.

He is planning to host a run April 23 at Adanac Hill to raise money for the run program.

With files from Olivia Stefanovich.