After seeing a major increase in the rate of suicide among young people in Alberta, a Calgary woman decided that enough was enough and people need to ‘Get Real’ about the situation.

Wendy Walker has been working with teens ever since she conducted a study 12 years ago. In that work, she found bullying was a huge problem for young people, but it was only the tip of the iceberg.

“I think kids bully for a lot of reasons,” Walker said. “One of them is because they’re feeling alone, they’re feeling hurt [or] they’re doing whatever, so they lash out and then it becomes a bigger problem and then they want to commit suicide.”

Walker then created the Get Real Community to help kids work through any issues that they may have.

Administrators with the organization, like Janet Marr, the chair of the board, say it helps all students.

“It covers all areas of their life and their ambitions and their issues and it is something that is all encompassing and reveals just what kids are going through and lets them know that they’re not the only ones.”

The community engages students in a number of light activities that involve volunteers from the local high school and adults from the community.

Lisa Free, a psychologist, then conducts some deeper activities such as ‘Cross the Line’.

In it, students are read a series of sentences and, if the description applies to them, they are told to cross the line.

Don Rattray, principal of Sylvan Lake’s Fox Run School, says the activity and the day itself helps students recognize issues they or their classmates could be facing.

“Before we do Get Real, we have a lot of conversations with students who have trouble grasping why one of their fellow students might be having a hard time or a rough day. After Get Real, it’s a lot easier for them to understand.”

Walker says her program is making a difference and she has already experienced some of the results, even from the very first day.

“He came that day and he said he was actually thinking of committing suicide that day and he came up to us at the end of the day and he hugged us all and said ‘thank you, you saved my life.’”

For all the young people who’ve been helped through the Get Real program, Wendy Walker is our Inspired Albertan this week.