A Message & Update from Mary-Anne

November 11, 2020

In June, The New Mentality made a statement about our commitment to embedding anti-racism frameworks into all programming and network practices following the global #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests.  

“We unequivocally stand by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and have made the commitment and promise to ensure that there is an anti-racism approach permanently engraved into the work of The New Mentality, not just for a couple weeks, not just for a month or a year, but forever.”

For the full statement, click here.

Today we wanted to share an update on our commitment and share some of the work that has been happening and our vision moving forward. 

The state of the world is inspiring radical change in order to reflect a new way of doing things in all sectors and at every level. As we work to create a mental health system in Ontario that meets the needs of all children and youth, our New Mentality network is calling us to ensure that anti-oppressive and anti-racism frameworks are embedded into all programming and advocacy. In addition to these commitments, we want to continue to recognize, name, and address anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism within our network and the broader sector. 

Many in our network are asking why are we focusing on race to this degree? Our answer is that the work of the mental health system, including TNM, has always focused on race, we have just not been naming it. Therefore, a part of this work is to begin to recognize, name and address the ways in which Whiteness has defined, and continues to define the sector and the limits and exclusions that result. If you are experiencing discomfort or feeling despondent I ask you to sit with the discomfort and be assured that these feelings can signal the beginning of your own learning journey. And remember we are in this together. 

The New Mentality, now more than ever, is feeling the call to expand in order to further infuse the child and youth mental health system with the transformation and magic we’re known for. This expansion is about improved inclusion of people already working in, volunteering for, and being served by the child and youth mental health sector and those who have been excluded. 

Fizza and I have been working with a small team to begin envisioning our next steps for our network as we work to embed anti-oppressive and anti-racism frameworks into all programming and advocacy work. Our intention is to create space where we can examine our own network practices and explore how racial identity impacts mental health and mental health services.   

We are now understanding our work in terms of phases that both widen our circles and deepen our work. However, it is important to note that our work is not linear — many phases will intertwine with each other. Today, I will be sharing our vision for phase one of this work.  

Phase One: Visioning, Exploring, and Leadership Development 

This phase has so far included visioning and team-building conversations with our advisory team. These conversations will continue as the team expands in order to ensure the culture, values, and vision of TNM are maintained and that new members become encultured over time.

Additionally we have been engaging in interviews and conversations with mentors and past leaders. This has been important because as we realized the big changes that we were taking on, we wanted to reconnect and reweave our past into our present and future so that we know we’re on solid ground. 

Disable the Label 2020: Let’s Reconnect & Reconvene 

An Important step in this phase is for us to reconvene our Disable the Label 2020 participants. At DTL 2020, we spent the remaining four weeks together exploring race, mental health, and racism in a Canadian context. We had deep conversations that began to address racism within our own network and Ontario’s mental health system. The young people and adult allies who remained to the end of DTL 2020 went through a transformation – they were ‘forged in the fire’ and now hold leadership and vision as TNM expands our way of being in community with each other. They made it clear that what was happening during this history-making and pivotal time was not just special but vital and they needed some kind of continuation of the work that included them. 

We will be hosting three sessions between November 18th and December 2nd to continue our conversations and help inform our work. Registration has been sent out directly to DTL 2020 participants. We are looking forward to reconnecting and continuing this important work.  

Open Forum

This phase also includes hosting a Virtual Open Forum on Friday, December 11 from 12:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the support of Anima Leadership. Open Forums are a facilitated conversation that allows space for all voices to be heard, even the unpopular ones or the things we’re afraid to say aloud. It’s a place where we can have difficult conversations, where conflict is raised and addressed in a healthy facilitated environment. 

This will be open to our entire network including youth, adult allies, and alumni. We will use this time to explore our own network practices and experiences. This is an open space, where you can speak from your heart and share what’s on your mind. You might have had an experience within the New Mentality that left you feeling hurt, angry, or discouraged, you might have experienced transformation and want to share that experience, you might be wondering why we are focusing on race right now, you could be fearful that TNM is changing as change scares you or you might be a strong advocate for racial equity and you have something to say. The open forum is ultimately our space to discuss what is needed to continue this work.  

Registration will be sent out through our internal networks. If you are an alumni, please reach out to me directly. 

As we do this work together, my intention is for us to come together as a community and support each other as we learn, grow, heal, and advocate together. I am making a commitment to providing updates as we continue this work. We are working on phase two which will launch in early 2021. 

If you have questions and or feedback please reach out to me at mary-anne@thenewmentality.ca 

With gratitude,