Toronto

Toronto student to talk mental health with Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Yazdanpanah is one of 19 students being sent to represent Jack.org, a national network of youth leaders hoping to change the way people think about mental health.

Shayan Yazdanpanah will speak to the couple Saturday as they sail through the Victoria, B.C. harbour

Ryerson engineering student, Shayan Yazdanpanah, says he's always been a fan of the royal couple, staying up late to watch their wedding back in 2011. (CBC News)

This Saturday, Shayan Yazdanpanah will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to sail across the harbour at Victoria, B.C. with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to discuss youth mental health.

Yazdanpanah, 20, an engineering student at Ryerson University, is one of 19 students being sent to represent Jack.org, a national network of youth leaders hoping to change the way people think about mental health. Members of the organization, founded by the parents of a first-year Queen's student who died by suicide, were selected to meet Their Royal Highnesses.

William and Kate are well into a visit to the country's west coast. Mental health is an important issue for the pair. The Duke and Duchess, along with Prince Harry, are spearheading a campaign called Heads Together, which works to combat the stigma around mental health.

The visit is an exciting prospect for Yazdanpanah, who will help to both sail their tall ship around the harbour and to raise awareness of a subject close to his heart.

"Often times mental health is one of those conversations that's unfortunately very overlooked," he said, but he hopes the international spotlight on couples like William and Kate will help to spur more conversation.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge visit Carcross during the Royal Tour of Canada.

Yazdanpanah got involved with Jack.org following his own journey to improve his mental well-being.

Like many young people, he found the transition between high school and university overwhelming, knowing something was wrong when he started to isolate himself from his family and friends.

Although never clinically diagnosed, he struggled. He became overly anxious and decided to seek help.

After opening up to a friend, he said everything changed.

"It was one of the most important things I did … just because until that point I was overlooking literally half of what my health consisted of," he said.

He reached out to Jack.org last year, soon becoming one of their Jack Talks speakers and teaching other youth they're not alone.

His key message to others: you don't have to suffer in silence.

"Once I started speaking up I realized how much better life was."

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