Mental Health & The Education System

By: Evan Rogers, Youth Mental Health Advocate

Over the last year, my passion for mental health in the education system has increased greatly. It is in my opinion that the education system has the greatest opportunity to help youth with their mental health. Although full responsibility should not be placed on the education system, the opportunity to connect to youth at school is immense. Over the past year, I have been thinking about the idea of well-being clubs in schools. The Ontario Student Trustees Association, has released a set of policy level recommendations that include the government enshrining the right to create a well-being committee in each school. I feel that if this was to occur, many schools would adopt the concept and collaborate to help improve mental health in their schools.  

Another reason I feel that mental health should be better addressed in schools is because youth rank school as one of the leading factors that affect their mental health. I feel that if issues were addressed at a system level that improvement would be seen quicker and at higher quality. We also would see improvement because the needs of each area for youth are so much different. We commonly see the theme of issues in northern ontario that relate to accessibility, quality of services and other things in both education and mental health services.  

 Another improvement I would like to see in the mental health aspect of education is increased funding for support workers. The funding formula for guidance counsellors are vastly different than those of secondary schools. I feel that the funding formula needs to better represent the needs of elementary and secondary schools. Another integral part of education is special education. We see more and more, more students requiring supports that are outside of the mainstream student. The lack of funding over the years has resulted in students not getting the support they require to reach their full potential.  

Overall, the lack of support from the provincial government in the last decade is finally coming to light to have the conversations needed to fix it. The hashtag #kidscantwait has been recognized by many and steps are being taken to implement solutions to address the issues surrounding the youth mental health crisis in ontario. Finally, it is in my humble opinion, that a major step to improving the state of youth mental health, we need to look to the education system. 


A New Way of Advocating

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all having a fantastic day and a great start to Mental Health Week!

First off, let me introduce myself!

My Name is Jaydon and I come from a small town just outside of our nation’s capital. I’ve been a Mental Health Advocate and a member of The New Mentality for going on five years now. Typically, in my line of work, the tasks includes things such as public speaking, event planning, social media campaigns, and just generally spreading awareness around important issues. In the past two years I’ve taken a bit of a step back and decided to take a different approach to advocating by getting involved with policy work and politics.

Ok, enough about me and my past. Let’s get to the real reason on why I’m writing to you today.

Today I’m going to be talking to you about a new and improved way of advocating that I started doing back in November. And that is advocating in the gaming community.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved video games. I’m sure a lot of other gamers out there can relate but whenever I was at a rough patch in my life or I was having a bad day. Playing video games was like my release from reality. It was like something that I could do that could distract me from almost any negativity that occurred in my life. As I grew older and technology started to advance, I started meeting all sorts of people and communities via different video games, which really helped me with my social anxiety when it comes to meeting new people. If I was never introduced to the gaming community I would have never met one of my best friends or any of the other amazing people that I have come across along the way. So all in all I see it as a really positive thing.

That all being said though, there is a lot of negative stigma surrounding the gaming community, and sadly some of it is true. I will be the first to admit that even though that I had an overall positive experience with the gaming community, I had some really negative experiences as well. Specifically with cyber-bullying and people who were acting toxic. Which definitely didn’t help when I was trying to use it as a platform to help myself.

Now taking both those points into consideration and also considering the volunteer work I do, I thought to myself: “Why can’t I mix the two things I love together? Advocating and gaming. In November of 2017 I signed up and joined this website called Twitch. Twitch is an online community where millions of people and thousands of interests collide in a beautiful explosion of videogames, pop culture, and conversation. So basically people from all over the world live stream themselves while playing video games, music, hosting talk shows, and other cool things like that!

Shortly after I joined, I started streaming under the name “That Positive Gamer”. As you can see in the name, it says “Positive Gamer” which is exactly what I try and do. My overall hope is to just try and create a more positive gaming experience for people on the internet, by sharing laughs, spreading love, and just letting people know that they matter and that not all of the internet is filled with toxic and hateful people.

This year, on my channel. I actually hosted a Bell Let’s Talk Livestream for Bell Let’s Talk Day in January. I spent the day playing games, listening to music, sharing my story regarding mental health, sharing quotes and submissions that viewers sent in, as well as educating people on Bell Let’s Talk and Mental Health as a whole. It actually turned out great! I ended up getting a really positive response from the viewers, I had a steady viewership of 10-15 people, and by the end of the day over 300 people tuned in from all across the globe to see the broadcast. Which was absolutely amazing!

Over the next few months I really want to focus on developing more content! Some of my ideas include:

– Creating a YouTube Channel
– Hosting more talk shows with other streamers
– Doing Awareness Streams for certain days such as Bell Let’s Talk or Suicide Prevention Day
– Establishing more charity streams in which I can start to raise money for CMHO and The New Mentality
– Live streaming events that are related to my advocacy work such as events that CMHO or The New Mentality put on.
– And much more!

If you want to be updated when I’m going live or for more information feel free to follow me or visit me at:

https://www.twitch.tv/thatpositivegamer/

(Note: If you wish to follow me or message in my chat when I’m streaming you’ll have to create an account, but don’t worry! It’s free!)

Or my Twitter at: @ThatPositiveG

A huge thank you to all of my friends, family, and supporters who’ve supported me since Day One, I love you all! <3


Youth Action Committee 2017 Project Update

At the start of 2017, Our Joint Youth Action Committee (YAC) with Children’s Mental Health Ontario began work on its third youth-led policy project. The committee, composed of  youth from across Ontario, first met in March in Toronto to discuss their experiences with the mental health system and what they had heard from other youth in their communities, and begin to work toward identifying the next focus of their youth-led policy work.

As the committee continued to meet through the year, they began to narrow their focus onto looking at gaps in mental health services, particularly for groups facing heightened risk of marginalization. The committee decided to host two youth summits based on this overarching topic, and to use what they heard from youth about their experiences to help narrow down the focus.

The committee hosted two events in the fall of 2017. The first event was hosted in Thunder Bay in October, in partnership with the Children’s Centre of Thunder Bay. Two of the youth groups at Children’s Centre were already planning a summit in the fall, so the YAC joined as partners and hosted a conversation as part of this event. The committee hosted successful conversations with youth from Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.

The committee also hosted a provincial youth summit in Toronto in November. This summit brought together over 70 youth for a dynamic day-long event full of challenging and complex conversations. Through our engagement with youth at these two events, the committee deepened its understanding of the experiences of accessing services of youth facing mental health challenges, and some of the specific challenges and barriers faced by youth facing heightened risk of marginalization.

As of December 2017, the committee completed a document summarizing key themes and findings. The 2018 committee will continue to analyze the findings and collect more input from youth, aiming for a release of our completed policy document by November 2018.

At this time, we are excited to release our 2017 Summary Document, outlining key findings from our work in 2017. Over the year we will continue to engage with youth – if you’re interested in contributing, join the TNM mailing list to receive opportunities as they arise.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SUMMARY OF THE 2017 YOUTH POLICY SUMMITS


The 2017 Youth Action Committee project was proudly sponsored by:

About the YAC

The Youth Action Committee (YAC) is a provincial advisory committee, made up of youth aged 16-25 who work to reduce stigma and improve mental health services for children and youth through youth-led policy recommendations. The YAC identifies a major issue youth experiencing mental health difficulties in Ontario are facing and sets out to find out how youth think we can solve these complex issues. Following province wide youth consultations, the YAC works with Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s (CMHO) policy team to generate youth-led policy recommendations. The group works together to deliver findings and recommendations to stakeholders responsible for change.

 


Growing Still: Operation Podcast

When Skylark’s 2018 group for The New Mentality began, our initial brainstorms on ideas to spread positive mental health messages kept bringing us back to how negative ideas of mental health get spread.

Mental health is being accepted more and more as we continue to advocate for it. We discussed how it seems visibility in mental health has improved because of initiatives like The New Mentality and #BellLetsTalk. Though while conversations about mental health are happening, the impact can be harmful when they aren’t happening correctly.

We want people to know that mental health is more than just depression and anxiety. We want people to know that when it is depression and anxiety, it isn’t going to look the same as you may have seen in the media. Mental health isn’t something that is seen, it’s something that’s experienced. So we decided to create a resource that contained honest information about youth and mental health: our stories.

Growing Still is a podcast about embracing youth autonomy by giving us our own voice. We interviewed students, community volunteers, friends, and strangers asking for their perspective being a youth and navigating mental health. The focus of season one for Growing Still is on ‘How Adults Can Talk To Youth About Mental Health’

“What I would tell adults is, please never give up on me.” – Anonymous Youth

 These are the words of a Toronto teen we interviewed last month.

The reason why we’re starting with conversation strategies for adults when talking to youth, is because adults have a powerful influence on us. We depend on them more than just financially. We model after their behaviours and catch glimpses of the people we could be in the future. There are many adults in our lives that have been wonderful and educational in supporting each of our mental health journeys, so we aren’t trying say adults can’t talk to youth about mental health. Instead we ask, how will adults know how to talk to youth about mental health if we don’t tell them?

We hear you, and now we’d like you to hear us.

I mean, if you want. No pressure. #selfcare

We’ll be launching the pilot episode of Growing Still at the end of mental health week, but you can catch our preview here:

Stayed tuned for more updates from us and if you or someone you know would like to be involved in the podcast, you can email us at growingstillpodcast@gmail.com.


Calling All Youth Mental Health Advocates in the 2018 Provincial Election

This election Youth Mental Health Advocates across the province will be keeping all political parties accountable for their promises as we call on them to make an immediate investment in child and youth mental health and addictions services. 

We have seen major child and youth mental health funding promises made by the Liberals through their $570 million budget commitment over 4 years, the NDP through their $590 million platform commitment over 5 years, and an overall mental health commitment by the PCs of $1.9 billion over 10 years.

However, we need to keep all parties accountable and ensure they deliver on these promises after the election. We need to send a clear message that we appreciate the promises made during the election, but we also expect action once the election is over.

To accomplish this, we are calling all youth mental health advocates to engage with candidates from all political parties. Youth must let their candidates know that we are mobilized and ready to act, because kids can’t wait for mental health services.


Below you will find 5 ways to keep your local candidates accountable to children and youth Mental Health!

1.Meet with Your Local Candidates

A crucial part to hold candidates accountable will be to have youth from across the province meeting with their local candidates. This will be your opportunity to directly engage with candidates and explain why an immediate investment in child and youth mental health is needed, and the impact it will have on you and your peers. If the candidate wins, this will also serve as an opportunity to build a relationship with your prospective MPP and have them become one of our champions at Queen’s Park.

In the fall, some members of the TNM network met with their MPPs. You can read about Amanda Suleiman’s experience here

2. Ask Your Local Candidates to become #KIDSCANTWAIT SUPPORTS 

We will be asking youth mental health advocates to help sign up candidates as a #kidscantwait supporter. As a #kidscantwait supporter, they agree to act to end wait times for children and youth seeking mental health services through increased investments and system improvements.

To become a supporter, we are asking candidates take a photo with our #kidscantwait sign (which can be downloaded here) , and we will share the photo on social media, and on our elections page, profiling their commitment. Include example picture

3. Letters to the Party Leaders

On Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s election page you will be able to send a letter directly to Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath, and Kathleen Wynne outlining the crisis faced by our sector and calling on them to fulfill their promises by making an immediate investment in community-based child and youth mental health services when they are elected. We encourage you to share this link with others in your network. You can make a huge impact in less then 2 minutes!

4. Attend Local Townhall Meetings with Local Candidates

To help demonstrate our presence across the province, and to gain public visibility for our issues, we are encouraging youth to attend townhall meetings with your local candidates. We have suggested questions that can be delivered to candidates at the meeting. These questions can be downloaded here .

5. Share the #DTLDemands Video 

At Disable the Label 2017, Youth Mental Health Advocates spoke to why a critical investment in Children and Youth Mental Health was needed immediately. The video calls on all party leaders in the upcoming election to make a children and youth mental health system in Ontario that allows all young people to find the services and support they need WHEN they need it. Share this video on your social media!

Sample Tweet:
I am calling on you @Kathleen_Wynne @Fordnation @AndreaHorwath @MikeSchreiner to be our champion for children and youth mental health – Check out our #DTLdemands to hear what other youth advocates are demanding in the 2018 election https://youtu.be/dh6yPn8nEcg #kidscantwait #neithercanyoungadults #mentalhealth #onpoli

We invite youth to participate in any or all of these activities. If you require any support or additional information, do not hesitate to reach out to the TNM team (caralyn@thenewmentality.ca)

 


Were Hiring! New Mentality Summer Student


Job Posting: Event Coordinator


Hourly Wage Rate: $14.00/hour
Start Date: June 4, 2018
End Date: July 27, 2018
Number of Hours per Week: 30

THE IDEAL CANDIDATE

Apply for this job if you’re a student between the ages of 15-30 who just finished a year of school and are returning for another year (this is a requirement of the funding for this position). The ideal candidate is interested and/or experienced in youth work, has proven graphic design and social media skills, and loves community mobilization and facilitating groups.

Because this role is within Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s New Mentality Program, you are excited to learn more about and contribute to strengthening mental health services for youth across Ontario.

Perhaps you know first-hand how to recover from a mental health problem like depression and that makes you passionate about this cause. Perhaps you are a visible minority or a person living with a disability and it is from this perspective that you have a passion for empowering youth to make a positive difference in their communities. All of this passion and interest is equally combined with an ability to organize and follow step-by-step plans towards your goal.

THE ROLE
The summer student will work with the New Mentality team out of our Toronto office to help us convene our signature Disable the Label retreat, which bring together over 100 youth, staff and allies for four days in July at YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia. This event brings together leaders from across Ontario who are making a difference in the lives of children and youth with mental illness. The student will support the designing, planning, delivery and reporting of the event. Specifically:

  • Promote training on website and social media
  • Design on-site training materials, including agenda, program, and resource package
  • Coordinate digital media during event, including managing our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts
  • Develop a blog post about the retreat, compile photos and artwork, develop online resources
  • Create one year social media plan and content for The New Mentality
  • Other related tasks as required

KEY QUALIFICATIONS

  • Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office, WordPress, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Social media enthusiast and expert, skilled at making creative use of different channels
  • Strong writing skills and experience with various types of writing and editing
  • Self-starter with the ability to work well independently, and collaborate well with creative direction
  • Ability to connect with people quickly – an excellent listener
  • Ability to work  under the pressure of  tight timelines and rise to creative challenges
  • Ability to synthesize information and communicate messages in a creative and engaging manner

APPLICATION PROCESS 

To apply complete the online application form; you will need to include your resume and a sample of something you have designed on the application form. To preview the application click here. If you have any questions contact Mary-Anne Leahy, Network Coordinator, The New Mentality; mary-anne@thenewmentality.ca Application deadline: Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Interviews will take place May 22-25.

Please note the successful candidate must be available for our summer retreat, July 17-20, and our planning day on July 16. This involves staying overnight at YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia Ontario.

The New Mentality is committed to equity in our policies, practices, and programs. We strongly encourage and welcome applications from people who identify as Indigenous (Métis, First Nation, Inuit, on/off reserve), a person of colour, LGTBQQ2, living with a disability, or a religious minority.