A young Summerland poet is joining the likes of radio hosts and local entrepreneurs on the TEDx Penticton stage to talk about an issue which almost led to the loss of her friend.
Faith Steele, 16, is set to read her poem on bullying and suicide entitled Words Can Kill, They Have and They Will.
The poem was an assignment for her Grade 10 English class, but it was an expression of a deeper concern for Steele.
“I had a friend, around this time last year, try and take his own life,” Steele said. “It was pretty scary, it was quite an emotional ride watching someone else go through something so strong, so many strong feelings. Overall it was just really scary. It was good to get it down on paper afterwards.”
Her teacher shared the poem, making its way to TEDx organizer Brian Hughes.
The message Steele wants to convey in the poem is that words have real and damaging effects in the world and what we say to others can leave long-lasting impressions.
“I know his attempt had a lot to do with what people were saying about him,” Steele said.
She is nervous about sharing her poem on the TEDx stage, but excited to get her message out to those watching. She was surprised and elated to find she would be sharing her poem, a feeling that still lingers today.
“I was … I just screamed in excitement I thought that was the coolest thing. I’m still astonished,” Steele said.
She is looking to inspire more thought and insight into how people treat each other, especially youth.
“I hope people will learn to think more before they speak. I hope it will make people struggling with mental health issues realize there are more people out there like them. I just hope that I could save a life,” Steele said.
The issue of mental health among youth is catching a lot of attention in Penticton and the South Okanagan. Steele hopes to keep the conversation going.
“I definitely think it does not get talked about as much as it needs to. I think it’s a bigger issue than people think. People try and hide it because it doesn’t get talked about and they don’t know that they can talk about it,” Steele said. “I would like to see that change and I would like to see a lot more people speak up about it and do something to change that and treat it more as they would treat physical health. With the same level of importance,”
TEDx Penticton takes place on Nov. 25 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Cleland Community Theatre.
Ticket information and a full list of presenters is available at tedxpenticton.ca. Read more on other presenters at pentictonwesternnews.com.