Aleethia Mackay

How Iceland Got Teens to Say No to Drugs, and How We Can Too


Taking insights gleamed from Iceland’s focus on youth, High School Drug and Alcohol Counsellor Aleethia Mackay is helping change the lives of her students. By focusing on culture and empowerment to help curb substance use and abuse, Aleethia shares how we can all shape the future of our most vulnerable.


Aleethia Mackay is a full time Addictions Counsellor at an alternative high school in the Winnipeg School Division.  She works one on one with teenagers that have experienced trauma, and teenagers that are battling substance use and abuse. Since she can remember, Aleethia has always had a passion for working with youth of all ages, because she loves the tenacity and honesty they possess. Her style of counseling is guided on the idea that “I see you, I hear you, and what you say matters to me” regardless of one’s race, gender, or socioeconomic status. She believes in looking at the biological, psychological, and social aspects surrounding a teenager’s relationships with drugs and alcohol. Although she believes that addiction is a topic to be dealt with seriously, Aleethia also sees the value in counseling youth with with and exuberance.

From a young age, nurturing and caring for others was deeply ingrained in Aleethia’s little personality. It became apparent that she was meant to have a career in the helping profession after volunteering for years with children in the PsychHealth ward, and working to positively socialize rescued puppies at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Aleethia was motivated to move into a full time job working with youth after her college practicum in the Manitoba Correctional System. It was there that she was able to interact with offenders from all walks of life, and realize that there is a huge need for proactive implementations instead of reactive measures when it comes to how we help those suffering with addiction.

From the UK, to the USA, to both coasts of Canada and back again, Aleethia is also an avid traveller. Having toured Iceland’s ring road with friends in the summer of 2018, as well as most recently returning from a trip to Vancouver where she spent time in the well-known downtown area of East Hastings, she has been able to witness firsthand the influence of intrapersonal connection and addiction.

During her travel in Iceland, Aleethia was heavily impacted by the country’s unique approach to dealing with youth and substance usage problems. She was inspired to take a closer look at the Youth In Iceland model in hopes of implementing it with her students back home.

Since adopting her cats Sampson and Delilah, her advocacy for animals has evolved into her latest passion. With the addition of her furry family members, Aleethia has been actively giving back to the shelters her cats were rescued at in unique and new ways. She piloted the first ever “Cats on Mats” event in 2018 that combined adoptable shelter cats and yogis alike, raising more than $600 in one afternoon, as well as a call for the event to become a semi annual occurrence.

In her free time, Aleethia adores letting her soft spot for Beethoven shine in her piano playing, teaching to her twenty-five weekly piano students, and attempting to bake something edible.