My Visit to The New Mentality Thunder Bay!

February 13, 2020

Last and final stop of my mini New Mentality tour, our New Mentality group at Children’s Centre in Thunder Bay!

It has been an exciting last few days, getting to meet many of the wonderful youth from across our network, and what better way to end it off than with our youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Started off my day bright and early arriving at the airport at 6:30am, and it was exactly how you would imagine one would feel… tired! However, I really enjoy flying and the airport because of all the different people you meet along the way, and new places you get to visit.

After a much needed nap and pretzels on the plane, I landed in Thunder Bay! I checked into my room, and shortly after headed to meet our New Mentality group, which was a quick cab ride from the hotel. The location where the New Mentality in Thunder Bay’s meeting takes place is beautifully decorated with indigenous art everywhere.

After exploring the building a bit, I had the chance to meet the two adult allies, youth and program manager of Adolescent Services. What I particularly liked before I even had the chance to meet everyone, is how the adult allies break one of the biggest barriers when it comes to youth engagement – transportation. The youth are picked up and dropped off by their adult allies, making accessibility to meetings much easier! 

The meeting started off with all of us getting to know one another. The youth and adult allies were so energetic, fun and friendly. The overload on chocolates definitely helped keep the room energized!

One thing that was clear from start to finish, was how much the youth loved their adult allies, as they kept advocating to the program manager, for weekly New Mentality meetings instead of biweekly. You could genuinely tell how much they loved being there, and how connected they all were. It just goes to show the impact that great youth engagement and positive adult allies can have on young people.

The youth and adult allies shared what their group has been up to recently, with receiving tokens of appreciation from Bell for their Bell Let’s Talk post, to volunteering in the community, to creating youth friendly artwork for Children’s Centre. These young leaders are always looking for ways to meaningfully contribute to their community!

I want to thank the youth for their vulnerability as they shared the crisis their community faces when accessing child and youth mental health services. Some youth have had to wait 2-3 days in the emergency room before seeing a professional. This is unacceptable and incredibly disheartening. Youth shared that many young people have had to pretend they’re feeling “better” just to escape the emergency room and hospital because waiting for services was making them feel worse. The hospital is the last place a child with a mental health concern wants to be.

I commend these young leaders for their courage, honesty and vulnerability sharing the horrifying stories of the current child and youth mental health system.

Thank you to the youth and adult allies for the warm welcome and laughs of course. We will definitely have our photo shoot in the snow and make some mukbang videos next time I visit!

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator