Living in a small suburb of Vancouver, I have spent 13 years of school with the same children. We grew up together, created memories together and shared experiences – in a way we have an unbreakable bond no matter where we go in the future. However, along the way I have lost a number of friends at an early age. In the last 3 years, our community has seen not one, but two young boys give up their lives.
At my graduation, we felt the loss of these two boys, one who should’ve been there with us to walk across stage and receive his diploma like the rest of us. In such a small community, the absence of these two boys was felt for months, even those who did not know them personally felt their loss. The personal connection to this issue prompted me to use it as my platform and while competing for the coveted title of Miss. World Canada 2019, I hope to facilitate conversation on this matter.
The statistics are scary. Once I started researching I grew more and more scared for our future. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst our youth, following motor vehicle accidents. Over 50% of youth formulate plans on how to end their lives and think about it daily. Imagine if all of these youth actually went through with this. It would mean that over 50% of our future is lost. And that’s terrifying.
Coming from a conservative family, I have often been told that depression and anxiety is not an illness that affects young children because we don’t have the same pressures that an adult might. However, I have seen otherwise. There are so many stressors surrounding us as teenagers that older generations didn’t have to face. While we have the power of connecting with someone on the other side of the world instantly, social media also causes a plethora of issues. Body image and cyber-bullying are just naming a few. Although we are so connected, we are even more isolated than before.
For my Beauty With a Purpose platform, I hope to help at-risk teens by creating support groups. By partnering up with youth centres across Greater Vancouver, I hope to create an open space where teenagers feel comfortable expressing their problems with each other. Being from the same age group, I know this isn’t easy. So to create trust and a bond between these youth, I will, with the help of youth centres, implement a program, sort of like a summer camp. A camp where, for a few days, the teens will not have access to their phones and social media, but will just relax and learn to connect with those around them, face to face.
I myself did a program like this a few years ago. For one week, we were completely isolated in nature with no phones, no beds and unfortunately, no bathrooms. For 7 days I didn’t look in a mirror, and I also didn’t care how I looked for what felt like the first time in forever. I was completely rejuvenated. Every morning we would walk around the forest, bare foot, feeling moss under our feet. We would watch the sunrise together and cook food over a campfire. We would canoe for hours on end and hike up waterfalls so we could shower. Every night, we would end up watching the stars and we were so far from civilization that there was nothing obstructing our view. I have never felt so comfortable with a group of people my age ever. We are still so close and whenever we have problems, we talk to each other. Having this friendship, this support, has helped all of us.
Being disconnected from the world can be hard. We are so used to checking our phones every 2 minutes to see what the latest update is. But it is so important to step aside and just take a break. That’s what I hope to accomplish with these youth. To teach them that there is more to life than the stress that surrounds us. I am incredibly passionate about this, and hope I can achieve my goal of helping these youth – because no one should feel this alone.
Miss Greater Vancouver 2019, Khushi