Loizza Aquino sparked the initiative to build her non-profit organization from a tweet, asking if anyone wants to help her raise awareness around mental illness.
This all came from a difficult time in her life. She lost her best friend Miguel to suicide on June 17, 2015.
“I realized that finding the answer as to why this is happening wasn’t going to do as much as trying to create resolutions to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” says Aquino, a second-year mental health and international development studies major at U of T Scarborough.
Aquino is the president and founder of Peace of Mind Canada – a non-profit organization that aims to provide a safe place for youth to have conversations about mental health. The organization currently has roots in Winnipeg and Toronto, with hopes of branching out to Ottawa.
She is the recipient of the RBC Top 25 Immigrant Award and the RBC Youth Award for her initiatives in mental health awareness. She is also the recipient of the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership. The $70,000 scholarship is awarded to 20 students across Canada.
Aquino says that she would like to use the award to connect with the other recipients and mental health advocates in hopes of bringing Peace of Mind across Canada.
“Conversation creates awareness and when people are aware, you’re a lot more informed and can be a lot more empathetic to people who are struggling with mental health,” Aquino says.
This year, Aquino will also award two $500 scholarships to one high school student in Canada and one student in the Philippines going into post-secondary education or already in post-secondary education. The LIASFMH Scholarship is personally funded by Aquino.
Aquino says that she would like to bring Peace of Mind to U of T Scarborough. In fact, she has had many students message her about how they admire her initiatives and how they can get involved.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me their stories about ways they are struggling and asking if there is anyone I know that I can connect them with,” Aquino says.
She says that this is truly an amazing feeling and something she will never get tired of.
“You should share and tell people that you love them,” Aquino says. “Being compassionate and being kind is something people will remember when they are struggling.”
Aquino plans to pursue a future in law and social work. She also hopes to work for the United Nations to create programs and policies geared towards human rights and mental health.