A local volunteer is giving back to the community by shining a light on a topic that most people shy away from.
Victoria resident Chelsea Clouthier is a volunteer with NEED2, a service that works to prevent suicide through anonymous chatting and texting services for youth.
Clouthier is a suicide education and awareness presenter, responsible for going to high schools on Vancouver Island and speaking to students about suicide prevention.
It is a topic that is close to Clouthier’s heart.
“In elementary school, some of my first memories are people saying really mean things in the locker rooms. Then I switched schools and things got worse and worse, I was really isolated at the new school and I was getting bullied,” said Clouthier, who originally went to school in Saskatchewan.
“All that just built up and it ended up with me being hospitalized for a few weeks after a suicide attempt.”
After the attempt, her parents found counsellors and psychologists for her to speak to.
“After I attempted suicide, it helped me realize there are people out there that care for me,” said Clouthier. “[My family] gave me something to continue living for.”
Now, the 23-year-old, who moved to the Island to attend university, has spent hours telling students about the resources available to them, something she has done at least once a week since she started with NEED2 in September.
“The thing I like about NEED2 is the presentation that we give; it gets people talking and it’s helping empower youth by telling them that they’re the ones that are going to be around their friends five days a week. We’re giving them the tools to see when their friends are struggling or when they’re struggling,” she said.
Clouthier was recognized for her volunteer efforts at the 17th annual United Way Greater Victoria YouthNow awards last week where she was awarded the individual volunteer award aged 20-29.
It was Renata Hindle, manager of suicide education and awareness program with NEED2, who nominated Clouthier for the award.
“Chelsea has a wonderful energy about her. She’s dedicated, she’s passionate about the work that we do. She’s committed in the sense of ensuring that she’s a positive role model for students,” said Hindle. “She’s just a wonderful person.”
According to Tara Taggart, with United Way, there were roughly 50 applicants for this particular award, but it was Clouthier’s work that resonated most with them.
“What resonated with the council was the type of volunteer work that Chelsea does,” said Taggart.
“It can take a lot out of you on an individual level and it’s such an important work that they’re doing. A number of young people have been touched personally or know someone that has struggled with [suicide] so it resonated with almost everyone on the council.”
This year’s winners also include Shaheen Rabie, Hannah Berry, Willow Mak, Kaitlyn Nohr, the Sierra Club and Youthspace.ca.