New Mentality Visioning Retreat

As many of you have heard, we’ve recently been awarded a 2 year grant from the McConnell Foundation through their Social Innovation stream. On Friday September 26 and Saturday September 27 we held our first Visioning Retreat. We called together a group of advisors, stewards, allies, elders, friends, and members of the New Mentality Network to learn from, help us plan next steps for our project plan, and dream with us about what The New Mentality could be.

Jermaine’s Recap of the Visioning Retreat

Re-thinq Reality Visioning retreat was absolutely amazing! Ever since I’ve been involved with The New Mentality I feel like I’ve been living heaven on earth. The depth of connection and inspiration that happens at these retreats is healing. There is something magical that happens in “the circle”. I still remember walking into the meeting room the first morning of the retreat, a familiar sense of communion and community was formed from the jump. Even though I came in late I felt the love. The first question they asked me was what was my most embarrassing or funny album I’ve ever purchased, I proudly answered “Snoop Dogg’s: Paid the Cost to be the boss”, we all got a good laugh out of that.
The space that we shared felt sacred as we acknowledge those who came before us and set our intention for the retreat. Gerard one of the hosts spoke to us about allowing Spirit to guide our movements, to recognize the kind of work we are doing. It was powerful; we all got to check-in and express ourselves before lunch.
After lunch we started the world café. It was an honour to share youth voice via our Rethinq Reality video challenge. Adult allies were able to hear what kind of reality they would like to see in the mental health community. As a group we were able to discuss the lesson and points we got from the youth videos. It set the tone for the rest of the session, we talked about youth engagement, navigating the system, and the impact and needs we have a youth serving sector.
These conversations sparked much conversation and feelings about the work we do and the kind of condition the system is in. Before dinner we met outside, acknowledged that we were having various feelings. We were posed the question “Does youth engagement save lives?” We split up either in pair or by our selves and reflected on it. Duane challenged us to come back with poetry that expresses our feelings. When we came back together we wrote our quotes on paper and shared with the circle our thoughts, it was enchanting.
Speaking of enchanting, after dinner we had a campfire. I will use few words because words can’t explain the rich experience. We were able to honour and show our gratitude to Cathy for starting The New Mentality and celebrate how far we’ve come. It was a ceremony that ushered in a new phase of The New Mentality as we offered our prayers and burned tobacco and other offerings. After all that we got to make smores, sing songs, share poetry and just be as a community. It was beautiful looking into the cosmos, underneath the bright stars.
The next day we were back to business. We had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. To be honest this time flew by so fast it was a bit of a blur for me. However I know that we are apart of some serious change and I genuinely felt like we were shaping the future of mental health in Ontario. With a big shift happening in the sector, like the Ministry of Children and Youth Services going from funding over 400 mental health agencies to funding 34 lead agencies, we have an opportunity to use our expertise in Youth Engagement. It was exciting brainstorming ideas on how The New Mentality can scale up and impact the sector in a more positive way.
I love how transparent and cooperative The New Mentality is. As a group we discussed how The New Mentality should think about Governance, Accountability and Core Principles. Being a part of this process made me feel a deep sense of value in the The New Mentality community and made me feel like I was a part of a group a revolution :).
Like I said in the beginning ever since I’ve been involved with The New Mentality I have felt like I’m in heaven on earth…talk about re-thinking reality ;).

A message from Cathy, Founder of the New Mentality

Dear New Mentality family,
Emotional pain and disconnection are exhausting the life-force for many young people. Some feel that they just can’t take another minute of it. We hear the statistics on suicide and know that this is heartbreakingly true. Suicide claims the lives of more youth than any other illness. Many youth are looking for relief, for help but don’t know who to trust, and don’t know if they can actually get better even if they found help.
The New Mentality is a lot of things- a program, a provincial network of groups, a provider of training. The most important thing that The New Mentality is, however, is an answer to the cries of young people in pain. I heard this spoken very clearly at the recent New Mentality Visioning Retreat at YMCA Geneva Park in September 2014.
People don’t join the New Mentality for the money, in fact, few have paid work with the program. They join and dedicate their time because they want to experience community, family, a sense of belonging, a sense of agency and the reality that they matter, that every single young person and adult ally matters, that each person can make a difference. The level of engagement in The New Mentality’s work to raise awareness of mental health is so strong that it is changing lives, even saving lives.
For two days, youth, adult allies, community members were hosted by a team of four women, Jenny Katz, Carlyn Quan, Mary-Anne Leahy and Cathy Dyer. Gerard Sagasige, Uncle to the community, offered his wisdom as our Aboriginal Navigator. Duane Hall and Jermaine Henry also supported the hosting team by coordinating a video series by youth from The New Mentality about what their community’s need. There was coordinated & shared leadership between the hosting team 25 participants who spent 2-days in deep conversation about the future of The New Mentality.
The New Mentality is about to give birth to a second generation, a new look and feel to the program that has a wider reach across the province, a larger scale. What is important to keep? What else is needed? How do we make decisions? How do we continue to save lives?
Every time The New Mentality meets we are stretched by the tension between relationship-building and making tough decisions. In this way, we have equal amounts of time in Circle sharing feelings and in small table dialogues working out new ideas with diverse members.
Keep connecting back to the need we are meeting. Keep gathering to share, practice and learn together. Continue supporting youth engaged in groups across the province. These are elements that were spoken at the retreat that are important to continue.
Open new pathways to participation for alumni and community members. Make decisions with more transparently and with a greater number of coordinated volunteers who believe in our core values. Work with schools, principles, teachers and student leaders in a more coordinated and consistent way. Keep talking about how racialization and racism impacts the work we do. Take our place as leaders in the field with other agencies and government ministries. These are the new seedlings emerging in the second generation of The New Mentality.
I am letting go of baby-ing The New Mentality. Handing the precious bundle over to new carers and foster parents. I am called to study Tibetan and Cherokee forms of personal development and healing now. I will never step fully out of the circle, just not as close to the fire anymore. Truly, The New Mentality is at a turning point.
We have a significant investment from the McConnell Foundation who really believes in us, believes that we are one of the best at youth engagement in mental health programs in the country. They want to see us grow, they want us to flourish. They are ensuring we have a robust staff team and finances to convene gatherings like the Visioning retreat. They will also help us pay for the seeds and fertilizer we need to plant our new gardens. We are so grateful for their support and for the support of all who participated by video and in-person at this historic New Mentality Visioning retreat.

With a full heart,