Thanksgiving: An attitude of gratitude even in this time of COVID
Country of Origin: Philippines
Loizza Aquino is an 18-year-old social justice activist. She has been involved with social activism since the age of nine, but, in 2015, she started to focus on mental health advocacy in 10th grade after she lost one of her best friends to suicide. He was one of four high school students in Winnipeg that died by suicide within the timespan of one month.
After a countless number of hours spent on trying to find answers as to why this was happening, Aquino realized that she needed to stop searching for answers, but instead, create solutions to ensure this would never happen again. This inspired Aquino to create her own youth-led non-profit organization at the age of 15 called Peace of Mind. Her organization holds events called Youth Against Metal Health and Illness Stigma (YAMHIS), which provides a safe space and platform for students across the province to share their stories and experiences in regards to mental health.
A handful of high schools across Manitoba have created Peace of Mind groups within their school to sustain mental health conversations throughout the school year. Since 2015, they have reached more than 2,000 students, and have expanded from Manitoba to Ontario. These events have inspired students to get help and have even saved students’ lives.
Aquino has worked alongside a branch of the Government of Manitoba on several projects. She is a public speaker who has received many different accolades for her work in the topic of mental health, online safety and media literacy, youth empowerment and human rights. Her past awards include the Young Humanitarian Award of Manitoba, Global Bayaning Filipino Award, TD Scholarships for Community Leadership and the Youth Premier Healthy Living Award.
Aquino also recently created her own scholarship fund to empower other youth mental health activists and support across Canada and the Philippines. Aquino is a student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a double major in mental health studies and international development studies, with a minor in public policy and governance. She hopes to work for the United Nations one day to create policies for mental health across the world.