Speaking up: Kieran's Story

Kieran may only be 19 years old but he’s got an impressive resume: A current resident of Iqaluit, Nunavut, he’s a student at the Nunavut Artic College in social services, and working with several organizations that advocate for mental health issues, LGBTQ+ awareness, and Métis representation.

Kieran’s journey into the world of advocacy began when he was 13. After a diagnosis of depression and borderline personality disorder, he found himself in a very dark place.

“I suffered from bullying for a large portion of my early years and experienced other traumas as well,” Kieran said.

His mental health took a dive when he hit puberty and became suicidal. Kieran had a plan to kill himself and left a note for his loved ones, but felt something stop him from following through. “I realized that my life could be more than I was making it out to be – I was stronger than I thought.”

Kieran decided that – instead – he would choose another path and seek help and treatment. After struggling for a few more years, he finally got the courage to reach out in Iqaluit and ask for help.  

Living in a remote location, his initial diagnosis and subsequent treatment wasn’t a smooth or simple process. “We don’t have the same supports in Iqaluit. I was constantly meeting different mental health professionals and trying to navigate this complex system.”

In Iqaluit, many healthcare professionals such as psychologists are flown up or only there temporarily. Depending on your needs, it can take over a year to receive clinical intervention. Even then, Kieran had other challenges as a Métis individual.

“My territory is very Inuit-focused when it comes to providing care. There’s pretty much next to nothing in terms of treatment geared towards Métis people. Even the Inuit care isn’t really culturally relevant because it’s grounded in western viewpoints. It’s not ideal from a cultural perspective.”

Kieran now works as a youth advocate with many organizations including Frayme. Kieran believes his role is an opportunity to bring a Métis perspective to the table – one that is often missing.

“There’s two big challenges, namely the lack of resources and care for youth who are from rural and remote places and there’s a lack of cultural competency in the mental health system.”

Kieran and his family members have witnessed firsthand how racial stereotypes still play into the system. “Indigenous people who seek treatment sometimes have their concerns dismissed because they’re treated as a drug addict or alcoholic. It’s hard enough for youth to get help, let alone have to worry about prejudices.”

Kieran was influenced to advocate by his mother, who suffers from bi-polar disorder. Kieran saw how much she suffered from a lack of supports and the fear of stigma. Despite this, she was still very open about her own mental health to Kieran and introduced him to Kids Help Phone, which sparked his interested in advocacy work from a very young age.

Currently, Kieran’s role on Frayme’s Advisory on Youth Matters (AYM) is an opportunity for him to contribute to helping other young people who are struggling with their mental health. “As a Métis person, we often get overlooked especially within the Indigenous perspective. It’s important to bring a Métis voice to the table and advocate for them as a whole.” 

Kieran sees value in the idea of integrated youth services because of his own experience in Iqaluit which often lacked continuity in care. “I was often dumped from one counsellor to the next, and the moment I started to form a bond they had to move and it was very much invalidating and disruptive.”

For now, Kieran is very hopeful for the future – “Youth are the people who build the future and if our youth are struggling and are one of the groups at highest risk, then that’s not going to make for a very good future.”

“Youth have a lot of things to say, and are very passionate. As long as we are given a chance to speak up, we will share our voices.”