Minister Coteau and Provincial Advocate Irwin Elman Support Waiting For Change Recommendations

In November 2016 our provincial Youth Action Committee (YAC) met with Minster of Children and Youth Services, Micheal Coteau to discuss their newly released Zine, Waiting For Change. The Waiting for Change Zine is a collection of personal stories and youth-led policy recommendations to address the issue of wait times in the child and youth mental health system. To view the full Zine Click Here.

Minister Coteau sat down with members of The YAC to hear first hand how young people are currently experiencing the child and youth mental health system and to go over the recommendations to reduce wait times in Ontario. YAC members left with a feeling of hope and optimism that their voices were heard and feel confident child and youth mental health is a top priority for Minister Coteau. They look forward to future discussions with the Minister.

On November 30, Minister Coteau released a statement supporting the youth-led recommendations outlined in the Waiting for Change Zine. The New Mentality firmly believes that youth with mental illness must contribute to creating a better mental health system. Without their voice are system will never meet the needs of our young people. We are very encouraged to see Minister Coteau’s commitment to youth voice in the mental health system.

“We will continue to relay on the advice from young people and their families, from our Indigenous partners and from our independent officers of the legislature, such as the Auditor General, to develop a responsive system that positions all kids for success. In fact, just last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with young people from the New Mentality Youth Action Committee — a group of bright, engaging individuals from across the province who are working hard to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. I support the committee’s recommendations contained in Waiting for Change, as they will go a long way towards helping shape a stronger system in Ontario.”

For the full statement click here.

Before the release of the Waiting for Change Zine, TNM staff Caralyn Quan and Mary-Anne Leahy met with the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, to give him a sneak peak of the Zine. We were again very encouraged by his positive response and support of the youth-led recommendations.

We are so proud of all the work our Youth Action Committee has done over the past two years to make this project happen. Under the leadership of 2015 Committee Chair Amanda Suleiman, 2016 Co-Chairs Nicole D’Souza and Beth Nowosad, and committee members, Matthew Leaton, Travis Franklin, Shannon Nagy, Chizara Anucha, Cherish Bluecoat, and Sabrina Gollan these young people proved once again what youth can do when given the right tools and support to amplify their voices.

To have the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Micheal Coteau and the Provincial Advocate Irwin Elman support the recommendations outlined by youth in this Zine sends a powerful message to young people across Ontario that the system is listening and that their voices matter.

The New Mentality is Accepting New Partner Agencies!

Throughout the sector, there is a growing sense of commitment to youth engagement and to finding ways for youth voice to be heard at all levels of the system. It is an exciting time of growth and opportunity.

The New Mentality is currently accepting new partner agencies to start New Mentality Groups. Starting a group and becoming part of the TNM network gives your organization access to implementation support, ongoing adult ally support, and special access to TNM events and initiatives. A detailed overview of our partnership requirements and benefits can be found here.

We will be hosting a Introduction to The New Mentality Webinar on Thursday, December 1 from 10-11am that will provide more information about The New Mentality, including how our youth groups are structured and the supports that we offer. We will also walk through the steps involved in launching a group. The intended audience includes Executive Directors, Clinical Directors, and potential Adult Allies (any staff within the agency that will be able to commit time toward supporting the TNM group).

To Register for the Webinar Click Here

Waiting for Change

Why “Waiting For Change”? In 2015 the Youth Action Committee members drew from their own personal experiences and stories told to them by other youth, that child and youth mental health wait lists were extremely long and was impacting their overall well-being. In response, the YAC hosted its inaugural Youth Mental Health Summit, Waiting for Change. The goal of the summit was to engage youth in the creation of specific policy recommendations to improve wait times for mental health services and to better support, children, youth and families when they are unable to access the treatment they need.

After two years of collecting stories and youth-led recommendations from other young people across the province to address the issue of wait times in the child and youth mental health system on Monday, November 21, our provincial Youth Action Committee released its first zine, Waiting for Change! This zine outlines four recommendations for how we can make change happen: two ideas to shorten wait times and two ideas for helping youth manage while they wait for services.

This Zine was written by the members of the 2016 Youth Action Committee and informed by the youth of Ontario.

To view the full Zine Click Here!

We would like to thank the members of the 2015 and 2016 Youth Action Committee, Amanda, Travis, Nicole, Sabrina, Matt, Zara, Cherish, Shannon, and Beth for dedicating their time, energy and passion to this project.

We would also like to thank the attendees of the 2015 Waiting For Change Youth Summit, Disable the Label 2016 participants, and all the other young people who shared their voice and ideas to improve wait times in Ontario. Finally, we would like to thank Children’s Mental Health Ontario for supporting the Youth Action Committee’s vision for this project.

TNM’s Response to the Ontario Residential Services Panel Report

The New Mentality is an Ontario-wide network of youth doing mental health awareness and anti-stigma work in their communities and leading edge youth-driven policy work. As a provincial body that aims to raise youth voice to improve the mental health system, we were pleased to support the work of Residential Services Review Panel by connecting them with youth from our network.

We applaud the work of the panel of experts, and were especially pleased to see the strong emphasis on the crucial role of youth voice in a high quality and effective residential treatment system. We share the belief that an effective residential service system must have mechanisms to engage youth voice at all levels, including within governance and accountability structures, and look forward to continuing to partner with government, community mental health agencies, youth, and other stakeholders as these recommendations are put into action.

We are excited to continue to work with the Ontario government to build a system that effectively supports children and youth in need of mental health support and treatment.

To see the Panel’s report, click here.

DTL 2016 Community Poem

Cold, beige walls
A doctor’s waiting room
3 meals a day of hospital slop
Surrounded by a strangely empty feeling
Detached from the outside living world

Hope comes and goes
Fading with every delay
Constantly having to relay
Our misunderstood pain

Feeling into our ideal system
We’ve been holding our breath but now we can breathe
And we see the light at the end of the tunnel
Hear, the quiet
No longer do we hear the quiet fear of not knowing what’s next
Now, we hear the quiet comfort of a silent moment with a friend who understands
Surrounded by people that help us see more clearly where we are, or feel okay about not knowing
A patchwork of professionals, friends, elders, and our chosen family
Thinkers and feelers guiding in balance; guiding us to our own balance

The system investing in who is there, for the priceless work they do, tending to the bedrock of our society, tending to the children and youth that are our collective future
Mentorship woven through our circles of care
Moving through our journey
Not commuting to treatment centres
But a steady flow to safety

A bouquet of gentle scents
Lavender, peaches, coconut, a pleasant overwhelm
The scent just after rain and of the open water

Senses unclouded
As our pain is no longer hidden
As more people understand and the constant questioning stops

We don’t let people hit rock bottom all by themselves
We don’t wait for people to hit rock bottom before we help

Celebrating each person’s individual resiliency
Depression reframed we feel things deeply
It’s all reframed when you see the strengths in me

A new normal
Places to find ourselves
Shift in relationships, back to humanity,
A balance between medication and self care
Treating the body and the soul

We don’t want to be perfect we want to love our imperfections
Love our flaws the way we love the flaws of others
Without the darkness there is no light
The beauty that is born of pain

-Community poem, written collectively by Disable the Label participants, 2016 Week One

We’re Hiring! Summer Student Job Posting

The New Mentality is hiring a summer student! of the job posting by
Download the PDF by clicking here : 2016 Summer Intern, or read on for more information.

Job Posting: Summer Intern
Hourly Wage Rate: $11.25/hour
Start Date: June 13, 2016
End Date: August 12, 2014
Number of Hours per Week: 30


Apply for this job if you’re a student between the ages of 15-30 who just finished one year of school and preparing 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 great graphic design 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 Summer Intern will work with the New Mentality team out of our Toronto office to help us convene two of our signature Disable the Label retreats, which bring together over 50 youth, staff and allies for four days in July. These events, held at the YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia, will bring together leaders from across Ontario who are making a difference in the lives of children and youth with mental illness. The Intern will support the designing, planning, delivery and reporting of the events. Specifically:

  • Promote training on website and social media
  • Design on-site training materials, including agenda, program, and resources
  • Provide on-site support to facilitation team, with opportunities to lead workshop sessions
  • Coordinate digital media during event, including live tweeting, facebook posts, and photography
  • Take notes during workshops and compile other workshop session materials
  • Develop written report post-event, compile photos and artwork, develop online resources
  • Other related tasks as required


  • Fluency in Microsoft Office, WordPress, and Adobe Creative Suite
  • Strong writing skills and experience with various types of writing
  • Ability to connect with people quickly – an excellent listener
  • Ability to synthesize information and communicate messages in a creative and engaging manner
  • Social media enthusiast and expert, skilled at making creative use of different channels

To apply, send a resume, cover letter, and a sample of something you have designed to Mary-Anne Leahy, Network Coordinator, The New Mentality:
Application deadline: Noon, June 6, 2016.
Interviews will take place June 8-10.

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.

TNM Releases DTL2016 Pictures and Video!

In July 2016, for the first time ever, The New Mentality hosted two Disable the Label summer leadership retreats for over 100 youth and adult allies across Ontario. Over four days at YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia, youth and adult allies gathered together to learn skills, share about their local work, and build connections with each other. It was an amazing two weeks! Thank you to our amazingly talented photographers Riya Jama and Kimmy Cheung for capturing our experience at DTL2016.

Check out the photos and video below!
Week 1 Photo Album
Week 2 Photo Album
DTL2016 Through Your Eyes Photo Album

What to expect at Disable the Label 2016

Hey Everyone! I hope you are all doing well! I’m Jaydon! As we all know Disable the Label 2016 is coming up very fast and I’m sure most of you are pretty excited, I know I am! As we grow even closer some of you might even grow a bit anxious over this event, which is totally normal. I felt that way too at my very first Disable the Label event back in 2013. So I’m just going to give you all just a little heads up on what to expect at a Disable the Label gathering.

The thing that I love the most about Disable the Label retreat is the people and the environment when you are there! This is my fourth year going and I’ve only met some of these people like five or six times and some of you I’ll meet for the first time in July. But it doesn’t matter because The New Mentality is like a family to me, they are people that I can trust and that I can count on. But most importantly these are people that I can be myself around. The New Mentality and their Disable The Label Retreat have changed my life. And if I was never introduced to this organization I don’t know where I’d be today without the support from this community. Most of the activities and conversations are completely optional. But I highly recommend that you do come and participate, have meaningful conversations, and build new relationships.

What to expect as a whole?

  • Love, Hugs, and Smiles
  • Fun Workshops & Activities
  • Meaningful Conversations
  • Welcoming and Understanding Environment (Safe Space)
  • Amazing People
  • Helpful & Caring Hosting Team
  • Lots of Sharing
  • Beautiful Views such as Nature Trails and even a Beach!

11902499_890787460976439_1844417436565354754_nDay 1

Is focused on basically welcoming each other, we will have time to meet and mingle with old and new friends, checkout the beautiful landscape of Geneva Park, and check into your rooms. New to Disable The Label? No problem! There will be an Opening Circle during the evening where you will receive an outline and find out exactly what you will be doing for the next three days. You will even have some time to meet some new friends after our Opening Circle! Are you a little shy? Again, no worries! There will be plenty of time to socialize with these amazing people over the course of the next three days.

Heads Up

In the past I have noticed that Days 2 & 3 can be intense as well as covering some sensitive topics. So if at any time you’re uncomfortable in a conversation or would like to not participate in an activity that is totally cool! Just let your Adult Ally know so that someone knows you are okay! It’s very important to Self Care when you’re having these type of conversations and dealing with mental health related work. So please don’t feel guilty if you need to take some time for yourself if need be. We totally understand!

11898900_890803820974803_1363558167159819882_nIn the past Day 2

Has been focused on exploring! During the day we will be exploring the emotions within ourselves, learning new ideas to Self-Care, building new relationships, as well as sharing about ourselves! You’ll also get a chance to speak about the work you’ve done in your community! Don’t feel like sharing? Well that’s 100% cool! You also can have the option to sit in and listen to see how other New Mentality Groups are doing. Who knows! Maybe it’ll spark some ideas. To end off the day we’ll have an awesome group camp fire! Which often includes Smores, Singing, and lots of laughs!
Day 3 is focused on learning! Day 3 will cover a variety of interesting areas with mainly teaching people new leadership skills, cool workshops, and other cool things that you can take back with your groups and into your communities when you leave. Some of the activities in the past have included World Cafe, Event Planning, Storytelling, Public Speaking, and other cool activities! To end off our last night together we’ll have a Talent Not Required Show! So it’s pretty much like a Talent Show but better! You can either have talent or not have talent! Everyone is welcome and usually ends with lots of laughs!

897700Day 4

Is the final day we will be together and will be mostly focused on reflection and looking ahead. There will be chance for everyone’s group to showcase and sell their merchandise! The remaining part of the morning will be focused on reflecting what we have learned from our days together and what our next steps are! Also exchanging conversation about how we are going to take this info and apply it to the work we are doing! There will also be time for everyone to say their goodbye’s to everyone before all parting ways. (Note: There will be lots of hugs!)

Disable the Label from what I’ve witnessed and heard has changed the lives of many including my own. It really is beyond an organization. It’s a family and I hope to see more and more of you join this big family. I hope this gives you all a better understanding on what to expect at Disable the Label 2016! I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your day and I hope to see you at DTL in July!

One Love,
– Jaydon, DTL 2016 Apprentice
To learn more about the youth experience at Disable the Label click here for Jaydon’s 2015 reflection and here for April’s 2014 reflection! Also feel free to browse our Disable the Label pages for videos, poems, and previous years programs!

Spring is Springing: A New Awakening

As winter winds down, our minds, bodies and spirits slowly emerge from hibernation. Going are days of extended cold, dryness, and uncertainty. Incoming are the rivers of fresh waters, clarity, and alignment.

The sign of spring always reminds me that no matter how challenging or monotonous winter gets, there is always a wide breadth of life stirring beneath the surface just waiting to spring.

Waiting for spring.

The timing of this convening couldn’t have been more perfect. Gerard Sagassige (our Aboriginal Navigator) led us through a ceremony and teaching as our souls were ready to receive a breath of new life: connecting us to our own spirits and to each other.
We are in relationship to everything and everyone but it’s hard to connect without knowing what connects us.

We often talk about what we do, but we don’t often talk about who we are. Gerard poignantly said that we get disconnected from our spirit stories… we forget them. But now it’s time to know them, to tell them.

This gathering was one of healing and embracing.

The most powerful moment for me was when each person had words spoken over them about who they are. We each then walked around the circle (which symbolized the world), being embraced and honoured by every person we passed. It was a sign of validation, acceptance, a way of saying I see you and you mean something more than just the work that you do. One thing is for sure… an undercurrent of love connects us, UNITES us.

Spring is springing.

The new life that has been rumbling beneath the surface is about to emerge. Seeds that were planted are beginning to grow with love, light, and nourishment. Dust and clutter is being cleared, paving the way for what this next season has in store for The New Mentality. It is such an honour to be building alongside some of the most beautiful people this planet has.
Thank You.

Disable the Label 2016 Registration Open!

For the past nine years The New Mentality has provided an annual summer training retreat for youth leaders and adult allies in the mental health system, in 2010 it was branded as Disable the Label. The event takes place over four days at YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia, Ontario. Youth and adult allies from across the province gather together to learn skills, share about their local work, and build connections with each other. We have grown from hosting 14 youth and adult allies at the first training to 80 in 2015! Each year we get bigger and bigger!

This year we are pleased to announce that due to increasing demand we will be hosting two Disable the Label summer leadership training camps!

Week 1: Tuesday July 12 – Friday July 15
Week 2: Monday July 18 – Thursday July 21

If you have any questions or inquries please contact Mary-Anne Leahy

Holiday Message from Cath Dyer

Dear Friends,

If you are new to The New Mentality, welcome. You are now part of a huge provincial network with over 17 groups from Windsor to Sault Ste Marie working to advance youth mental health. More than a network, this is a movement to amplify youth voice and support young people to contribute to creating a better mental health system.

Perhaps you are learning about The New Mentality for the first time. Every year we offer subsidies to groups across Ontario to support local activities. We also offer subsidies to youth so they can attend our provincial Disable the Label summer camp.

For the first time, The New Mentality is creating an annual fund, the Youth Changemakers Campaign, where TNM members, alumni, family and friends can give back and directly support youth making a difference for mental health.

The Youth Changemakers Campaign impacts youth in your community and across the province. It supports youth so they can receive the life-changing training and experience at our Disable the Label summer camps. This training in turn, helps ensure successful youth groups and projects and also helps local mental health centres provide effective mental health care.

I ask you to take the time to consider supporting The New Mentality through the Youth Changemakers Campaign.

As a founder and donor of The New Mentality, I choose to make a monthly donation. It’s easy and is deducted monthly from my credit card. I continue to support it because it’s something I really believe in – helping youth not only grow and recover from mental illness but also helping them create growth and healing for their communities and the province.

When I talk with supporters across the province they often share their passion and belief in the work of The New Mentality. I hear from them that by supporting this The New Mentality’s youth leaders, we are in fact, supporting the mental health of all children and youth in Ontario.

If you haven’t already, would you take a minute, and consider supporting The New Mentality?

A gift of $50 for example, could contribute to a group within your community. A gift of $30 per month is enough to send a young person to our summer leadership camp

Supporting the annual Youth Changemakers Campaign is easy. Just click here to make your gift online.

If you have any questions, please contact Caralyn Quan, Program Manager at TNM’s Toronto office at or 416-921-2109.

Thank you for helping and have a very happy holiday season with your family and friends.

Catherine Dyer
Founder & Donor
The New Mentality

Waiting For Change Youth Mental Health Summit Recap

On Sunday, November 22 our Youth Action Committee in partnership with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health hosted our first Youth Mental Health Summit! The Summit engaged youth in the creation of specific policy recommendations for government about how to improve wait times for mental health services and how to support children, youth, and families when they are unable to access the treatment they need.

Recommendations coming out of the youth summit include developing a strategy that brings government and children’s mental health centres together to support children, youth and families while they wait for services by facilitating:

  • Peer-to-peer and family support groups with appropriate levels of staff supervision and training, to help young people and their caregivers assist one another while waiting
  • Temporary counseling resources to help children and youth while they wait for longer-term care, including walk-in clinics, immediate access to a counselor for initial sessions, and drop-in group programs;
  • Individual plans to keep children and youth safe while they wait for services, including suggestions of positive coping mechanisms, numbers to call in a crisis, and information about local grassroots support groups and community activities

youth-summit-2Youth attending also recognize the huge need for funding to ensure improved access to programs and support.

The Youth Action Committee will be completing a report and making formal policy recommendations to the government in the upcoming year. The report will include even more recommendations from the Youth Summit so be sure to keep your eye out for it!

To view photo’s from the event click here!
At the summit Duane from Spoke N Heard captured our first workshop with this beautiful community poem!

“I Hope You Understand”

On Sunday, November 22 our Youth Action Committee in partnerships with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health hosted our first Youth Mental Health Summit. The summit engaged youth in the creation of specific policy recommendations for government about how to improve wait times for mental heal services and how to support children and youth when they are unable to access the treatment they need. Click here to learn more about the Summit. At the summit Duane from Spoke N Heard captured our first workshop with this beautiful community poem!

“I Hope You Understand” by Duane Hall

I understand that you have not lived my experiences,
but in the fundamental knowing of our interconnectedness,

Multiple manifestations of the same Source, singular projections of the same Whole,
I know you feel me.
I know when I express my pain that you can share the experience though me.

And these stories of struggle are disseminated to shed pre-existing perceptions
and induce a rippling effect of innerstanding.
The Message: No one should have to go through what I’ve gone through.

So I use my voice to send waves of awareness across the nation,
Triggering an awakening to our current situation,
My voice is power undeniable.

These are the things we think you should know:
When we are denied access to services, our conditions worsen.
You should ask yourself these questions.
When in deep isolation and despair,
Am I more likely to turn to teachers or to drugs?
Will I receive more relief from family or from drowning my sorrows in a bottle of beer?
Will my community comfort me more than self-harming?
Am I more likely to visit a walk-in clinic and expose myself to further stigmatization,
or will suicide start looking like a more suitable option?
Will my friends keep me from going off the deep end?
I don’t want to lose my friends and I don’t want to be a burden,
but these tears have been non-stop for weeks and I’m tired and I’m hurting.

And regardless of whether I will actually turn to self-destructive behaviours or not,
and statistically the likelihood is high,
I need you to keep these understandings in mind

Understand that the worse things become, the less people I have to turn to.
Understand that when I’m made to feel insignificant I lose hope in help and I lose interest.
Understand that my mental illness doesn’t magically disappear when I turn 18.
Understand the level of courage it takes to admit my need for help, only to be turned away.
Understand that I feel lost, alienated and invalidated…

Understand that my life is precious
Understand that I have much to offer the world
Understand that I have a purpose
Understand that my continual existence in and of itself is an act of resilience
Understand that I’m what you’re missing
Understand that you need me to complete your mission
Understand that my heart is open
and I’m willing to go even further than you can to provide healing for another person.

I am valuable, relevant, vulnerable and committed!

This is an invitation,
An invitation to real communication,
To honesty, authenticity, and above all to see me…
For one moment, just one second, to truly feel me…
and I know you’ll understand.

– Duane Hall
Spoke N’ Heard

TNM Opens Day 2 of Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s Annual Conference!

Last week the TNM staff team, Caralyn, Jasmine, and myself (Mary-Anne!) presented at the 2015 Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s (CMHO) annual conference. We were opening the final day of the conference and with 600 eyes on us we were very nervous! The theme of the conference was better together and in the opening ceremony CMHO CEO Kim Moran asked the audience to be bold. We took this to heart and set out to be bold in our presentation. Caralyn challenged what being better together actually meant and who it include, was it youth? or just the same old people that are always at the decision making table? She spoke of the magic that happens when youth are engaged and speaking their truths. I got to share my experience at an event run by our New Mentality Halton Group and how youth can create change! I spoke about what it takes for agencies to do good youth engagement – How youth engagement cannot be held by one person in the agencies but from the front line worker to the Executive Director. And that agencies need to trust in vision of young people! Jasmine challenged outdated approached to youth engagement and called our sector to start implementing anti-oppressive and anti-racist frameworks in our youth engagement. She closed closed our presentation with a epic Spoke N Word poem asking the audience -What will you do with your power? For our full speeches click the links below!

Click Here for Caralyn’s Speech
Click Here for Mary-Anne’s Speech
Click Here for Jasmine’s Speech

Disable the Label 2015 Video!

In July 2015 the New Mentality hosted its annual Disable the Label leadership training camp at YMCA Geneva Park. Youth and Adult Allies from across the province gathered together to learn skills, share their local projects, and build meaningful connections. Check out this video to share in the amazing experience!

Jaydon’s Disable the Label 2015 Reflection

It was about halfway through the afternoon on Monday, July 27th, 2015 when our vehicle took the turn into Geneva Park. As soon as that turn happened my mood instantly changed and a smile emerged onto my face. We were driving through and my mind began to wander, driving past several landmarks and points that would bring back good memories from previous years, I took a deep sigh and thought to myself “I’m home”.

There were two new members with us this year and they seemed quite nervous the whole ride up. This being my third year at Disable the Label and seeing how much it has changed my life, I was so eager to explain how much The New Mentality and Disable the Label has meant to me and that they don’t have to worry about a single thing. As I was explaining it to them the smile never left my face and the more and more I began to explain it to them I noticed that they were beginning to become less nervous and more comfortable with the situation which made me really happy.

We went in to the registration building to figure out where we would be staying and we didn’t even make it to the desk before I was bombarded with hugs from good friends that I have met through previous Disable the Label camps. It was like one of those scenes that you would see in a movie, I just dropped my bags and we all like ran and hugged each other, it was absolutely amazing!

The thing that I love the most about Disable the Label is the people and the environment while you’re there. Some people I’ve only met three or four times and others this would of been the first year that I met them. But either way this community is like a family to me, they are people that I can trust and people that I can count on. But more importantly, the kind of people that I can be myself around. I personally find it very difficult to get comfortable around people and trust them, even if I’ve known the person for a long time. But whenever I go to a New Mentality event or a Disable the Label conference, all of that completely goes away. For the first time in my life I’ve found a community that doesn’t judge me, doesn’t bully me, and just accepts me for who I am. Most of these people I’ve only met a few times and I feel that I can just be myself and speak my mind. Which is absolutely unheard of for me, so I think it’s really great that there is a place that I know that I will always have and friendships that will last a life time.

Over the course of the four days at Disable the Label this year we learned very valuable skills that we were able to take back to our communities, such as:
– Public Speaking Skills
– Event Planning
– Youth Engagement
– Spreading Awareness
– How can we Help Ourselves (Selfcare)
– How we can Help People who are Struggling
– How can we Help our Communities
– The Differences of Positive and Negative Coping
– And so much more!
As always The New Mentality has yet again put on an amazing performance at this year’s Disable the Label, overall this has been the best one yet. If I were to be asked on a favourite moment at Disable the Label 2015 I wouldn’t be able to choose, that’s how good it was this year! Whether it was the World Café hosted by The New Mentality, Spoken N’ Heard’s amazing event planning session, the campfire, the Talent Not Required Show, or the endless nights that I would stay up talking with new and old friends. These were a few of all of the amazing memories that I had of this retreat.

The New Mentality has made a huge difference in my life and I don’t know where I’d be today if I was never introduced to this organization. This community has transformed me to become into a stronger and more confident individual. I believe it is truly amazing on what The New Mentality has done. The fact that there hundreds of youth just like me, who want to make a difference in their communities, make changes, and spread awareness is just amazing. The amount of people’s lives that The New Mentality has changed is huge; just imagine the amount of lives each individual is changing because of this organization.

A huge thank you to all of the Hosting Team, Jermaine, Caitlin, Amanda, Deserae, Peter, Vanessa, Victoria, Violetta, Gerard, & of course Jasmine, Mary-Anne, and Caralyn from The New Mentality for putting this all together and making it such a empowering and life-changing experience for everyone. Within the next stages of our lives there will be huge changes in our society because of the work we are all doing, so keep doing what you are doing everyone. We are all making a huge difference in our communities. Remember to #Selfcare everyone and I’ll hopefully see you next year at Disable the Label 2016. One Love <3

The New Mentality- A Founder’s Story

Stories matter. The New Mentality is designed to give voice to people’s stories that often don’t get heard. Stories communicate. Stories help people matter. Here is my story.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t talk about schizophrenia. Every time I would share that both my parents had the illness, I got the same looks of horror, fear and pity. The stigma for me and my parents was debilitating. We carried deep shame and hid our experience as dark secrets not to be discussed. I did have a grandmother that volunteered for the Schizophrenia Society in the 1980s and 1990s. She taught me how to type on a typewriter and also how to remain steadfast in my connection and love of my dad despite his illness. I wonder what she’d say to know that I continued her legacy.

Going back to the stigma, deeply ingrained in me was the ideas that if you show your feelings, people would think you are crazy and lock you up. I must have got this from my parents who were ‘locked up’ in hospital for years and years. It wasn’t until The New Mentality, did I ever talk about mental health in public. My own fear and shame prevented me.

After many failed attempts, I found a youth counselor when I was 21 that helped me with my post-traumatic stress and anxiety. I was abused my mother’s boyfriends and not given the food or care I needed growing up. I was abandoned many times to foster homes or extended family. For years, my mental health left me socially isolated, closed-hearted and hopeless. I often considered jumping off a bridge or building to escape the pain. I tried drugs and drinking to numb the pain. I let myself be controlled by others as I lacked the confidence I was worthy or capable. I am sharing this because my own lived experience of mental illness is what inspired me to build the New Mentality.

I developed a relationship to Mike, my counselor, when I was volunteering at a youth drop-in program. It is a unique program run by the children’s aid societies in Toronto. Downstairs there were programming rooms where youth led the groups and upstairs there were child and youth workers who were available for drop-in or scheduled sessions. Mike, my counsellor, allowed me to decide when I came and what we talked about. There was no maximum number of sessions or strict parameters. He showed me how to gain control over the memories and thoughts of my past that repeated in my head. He did this without asking me to talk about those memories but rather use the power of visualization and affirmation to change my habits.

This model of treatment had a profound impact on me. I experienced the healing power of volunteering with the supplementary power of the traditional counselling relationship. The flexible intake process, space, and non-medical approach I received showed me the power of community-based mental health services and their potential. When I was given the opportunity to lead The New Mentality, I hoped to advocate for more services like this one that gave opportunities for youth to volunteer and contribute to show they matter as well as talk to a counsellor who would reinforce the message and provide skills and techniques.

Learning to Love Schizophrenics

I was hesitant to accept the job as Coordinator back in 2007. “Oh no!” I thought. “How am I ever going to make peace with mental illness?” Mental illness had abused me. Mental illness took away my parents. Mental illness left me traumatized and anxious. How would I ever rally people and tell everyone not to be afraid or ashamed when I was? It would also be hard for me to hear the painful stories of the youth with whom I was going to work as I hadn’t yet learned how to talk about my own post-traumatic stress disorder and experiences with mental illness.

What was even scarier was to meet youth with schizophrenia. I had never met other schizophrenics besides my parents. I expected these youth to trigger my own memories and traumas. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect, lead or support people with an illness that took so much away from me.

I did get triggered sometimes, but surprisingly not from those suffering from mental illness. I was able to relate and connect easily with people of all kinds. It was deeply healing and it brought me closer to my own parents with whom I could more easily relate. The triggers that were the hardest to overcome were of the hospitals and institutions providing care for the mentally ill.

I can remember the first time I went to Ontario Shores. It was a renovated sanatorium like the one in Guelph where I used to visit my parents. I was in cold sweats on my way over there. I had to have a friend drive me and wait for me in the parking lot. That meeting was so brief, I barely registered it. It was a standard networking and introduction meeting and when the host invited us to take a tour, I almost broke into tears. Like exposure therapy, it was a gift to confront my fears. To have meetings of a different nature in these buildings playing a role not as a child but as a grown woman was a gift.

For years, I would support youth to be shameless about talking about mental health. It was through their courage and through this process that I unwound years of generational pain and shame surrounding mental illness. My time with The New Mentality helped me learn to love schizophrenics. It gave me experiences of cooperation, fun and shared purpose with people who were just like my parents. I met others, who like me had been abused and suicidal and who were not afraid to talk about it. The conditions were created for powerful stories of pain and transformation to be shared and told and in turn it transformed me too.

Volunteerism as Therapy

The New Mentality has neither the research nor the structure to call itself a therapeutic intervention. However, it is hard to deny that the outcomes of participating are therapeutic. Anecdotally, I know that The New Mentality has saved lives through its process of connecting people to others and to a purpose larger than one’s self. I like to think of this kind of volunteerism as the best therapy I ever had.

The New Mentality asks a person to dig deep to create, to use story, to believe they matter, and to relate. This is ‘meaningful’ in ‘meaningful youth engagement’ practice for which we strive. In some volunteer programs, a person is asked to arrive, follow instructions and depart. Hopefully there is some reciprocity in there for the volunteer in terms of learning or network building. The New Mentality was always more risky and demanding than that.

It is risky and demanding to ask a lot of people who are emotionally or mentally unstable. In fact, some think you shouldn’t ask youth with mental illness to volunteer or do too much because they aren’t up to it or because they can’t handle it. Certainly, there are various roles within the New Mentality so people can choose their own level of engagement. There is a weekly group member. Sometimes participation every week isn’t required so this is great for those who need lots of freedom and choice. Then you can be a Group Facilitator taking leadership for the group and for planning projects. Then there are provincial roles where youth can volunteer on committees or projects for the whole network. These certainly have the most responsibilities as they impact not just one group but the whole network of 16 groups.

I knew of the power of volunteerism from my own experience as a youth volunteer. I volunteered for six years with the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre- first as a participant and then as a facilitator. I had a thick shell to come out of when I began volunteering. The stigma of foster care that I described above was still deeply felt and I remained silent often.

The group had several important aspects that supported youth leadership. I tried to embed these within The New Mentality group model. It was hosted by one staff of the agency that would ensure structure, funding, safety and food was present. The purpose of the committee was to prepare and support youth to be consultants to staff and partner agencies about the needs of youth in care. We had funding for food and a small honorarium for facilitators and we also did our own fundraising.

The best fundraising strategy was a community partnership with Toronto Public Health to do sexual health workshops for youth living in group homes. These youth were shown to be at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections and early pregnancy. We could relate more easily with them and so could talk about safer sex and consent better than staff, teachers or the Public Health Nurses. Each time our group did one of these workshops, we would each get $50. Each workshop had 2 or 3 facilitators. Facilitators donated their money back to the group to support different projects and social events the group wanted to do.

I learned a great deal from this group and I healed a great deal from this group. I learned to shamelessly talk about being a youth in care. I learned the joy of relating to others with similar experiences. I learned how to not isolate socially and enjoy the company of others. My years as a youth volunteer with PARC were formative. I had lived and experienced the power of participating in a group where everyone had overcome significant challenges. But the focus of our group wasn’t our difficulties. It was our strengths. We were active contributors to something larger than ourselves. We were helping new staff, and group home kids and agencies. We were treated as resources not problems and that helped us see our histories in a new light. This is the kind of experience I wanted to bring youth across Ontario through The New Mentality.

To me, the process of working for something bigger than one’s self and really using one’s skills, experience and knowledge is healing. Again, it is asset focused. It doesn’t dwell on what a person can’t do or their pathologies of anxiety, depress, control or delusion. It says, “Yes, you are welcome in the circle. You are needed in the circle. Come Contribute to the circle.” This is the greatest kind of honoring and healing opportunity a person can receive- to be included meaningfully. This is why I think of meaningfully volunteering as therapy.


Volunteering was a chance to give my experience meaning to say that it mattered to something bigger; that I mattered to a larger whole than just myself. There’s numbness and isolation that I experienced suffering in silence from my own mental health challenges. We all need meaning and we all have to connect to something bigger than ourselves. Volunteering did this for me.

Mental Health is a part of each and every person. We are all physical, emotional and mental beings. We all get the flu and we all get stressed. We can relate with this shared human experience. It is a little harder to relate to someone who is on the extreme of health or disease and we are scared we too might get sick because, we know, deep down we all have so much in common. Making peace with illness and suffering is a hero’s journey for sure. To look into the eyes of someone in agony and feel both the agony with them and the brilliant humanity that never goes away is remarkable.

To truly walk without stigma of mental illness is to confront your own fear and suffering and let it go. This is not a completed journey for me but I am certainly closer than I was before The New Mentality. I have been showed over and over again by young people diagnosed with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, anorexia that these conditions exist simultaneously with an inalienable human dignity. This dignity, this humanity, this compassionate, creative life giver energy exists within us all. Yes, we shouldn’t ignore the pain and only look for the beauty. Compassion is born out of pain and so too is healing .Yet at the same time, we have to always understand the beauty too.

Youth Engagement as a practice works because youth aren’t just viewed as problems that need fixing by counselling agencies. They are viewed as resources and assets that can help. A new balance can be struck between helper and ‘helpee’ where there is more fluidity between the roles and greater shared responsibility. This model of volunteerism, of youth-serving agencies works and will continue to work and like cognitive-behaviour therapy or yoga or meditation, it continues to work so long as it continues to be practiced with consciousness, strength and great joy.

– Catherine Dyer

Disable the Label 2015 Poem

“Good morning beautiful specimen,
How are you today?
Thank you for coming.
I came to see that smile on your face.
I remember a time with overwhelmed anxiety
They’d say, “Just Breath.” “Here’s some drugs.” “Drink this Tea.”
I didn’t want any of those things,
“You, dictating how I should handle me?!”
Pointing at my faults, fears, and flaws,
I wanted that finger to point me to an escape.
An exit sign.
I was locked away in my mind.
Isolated like a deer crouching in a circle of towering tigers.
They were a different breed.
They’d only torment me.
They couldn’t see the visions I see.
Self conscious, protective of my dreams.
In the conflict and chaos
like a roaring fire
The pressure turned the rock I was.
Now I’m, “Shining bright like a diamond.”
I survived.
I survived.
I survived.
I survived.
I stand in front of you in this brave safe space,
Happy to share my story.
Making a difference,
Part of today’s history.
Though you are my mirror, I can see right through you.
Transparency. Authenticity.
I can feel even when I can’t see you.
You are my ally, my teacher, my student, my friend.
My family on this journey,
we’re not even close to the end.
You have opened my eyes to a clear blue sky.
and a blank canvas.
Together we multiply our joy,
Divide our sorrow.
All of a sudden I’m so full,
I forget the feeling of being hollow.
The nourishment we have harvested has given me strength.
To my bones and vocal cords,
I realize everyones been touched with taint.
I’m not alone,
I’ve got company.
I’m just one advocate,
In this inspiring community.
We are manifesting ideas
Empowering each other.
Bringing together energies
From unique sisters and brothers.
This energy embraces my vulnerability.
I stand proud and brave
I believe in the power of my voice,
and also my silences’ waves.
Our diversity is infinite.
and so is our capabilities.
Challenging the stigma,
Being the change we want to see.
Our minds so open
Responding to the needs of the world.
Honest leadership in society’s whirl.
Thank you for your belief and support.
Thank you for sharing with me your hurt.
Thank you for a better today.
Thank you for the laughs, hugs and play.
Thank you for your compassion and presence in this space.
Thank you for fully accepting me with grace.
Thank you for hearing me dream out loud.
Thank you for encouraging me to be proud.
Thank you for accepting my thoughts even if they waiver.
I have yet to meet a sweeter lifesaver.”
Radha Pithadia, member of Spoke N Heard
Founder of True Therapy

INTRO:SPECT: a glimpse within

The New Mentality presents INTRO:SPECT – A Glimpse Within, an artistic exploration of mental health curated by Spoke N’ Heard.
This event will feature performance poets, vocalists, emcees, and live painters sharing their stories through their art. They will take us on a journey, through the lens of their mental health experiences, highlighting their Wounds, Windows, and Wonders.
This celebration is taking place during Children’s Mental Health Week to spread awareness about mental health. As such this event will feature, I LIVED IT, a talk show segment hosted by Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC).
Join us on Saturday May 9th at 6:00 pm in SKETCH Working Arts – Lower Level Studios.


Amahla’s Reflections on the Visioning Retreat

By Amahla Johnson

Recently I was invited to attend a visioning retreat for the New Mentality because I did some leadership consulting with them over the summer. I had many thoughts and feelings throughout the weekend and wanted to put some of them down as I continue to process about the experience.

The visioning retreat’s purpose was, in part, to begin to examine how the New Mentality can extend its reach, as there is more demand for their local groups than they can meet with the capped funding they currently have. The retreat participants were adult allies of the youth that participate in the New Mentality groups. They were a diverse group of smart, deep and compassionate helpers – a lovely bunch of people to spend time with.

Gerard, a First Nations elder who helped open the retreat, grounded the group in the spiritual reality of our connectedness to each other and the natural world. I felt grateful to be able to hear his deep words. He set the tone by making it okay to talk in terms of spirit, which in turn made it easier for me to acknowledge how much that is the foundation that I come from.

As we began to discuss familiar issues around youth engagement, I began to think about how challenging it is to change social fields. Because I knew we were going to be using the Process Work/Deep Democracy model later on the in retreat, I was reminded of a book by Arnold Mindell (founder of Process Work) I’d read a long time ago which used the idea that people diagnosed with mental illness are unconscious communicators of shadow awarenesses that the community needs to integrate. I also thought about the concept of the “identified patient” – where a group or family issue lands on one person, often a vulnerable member such as a child, who gets identified as “the problem” and taken to the therapist to get “fixed”. I wondered to what degree are our youth and children are suffering from a lack of emotional sustainability in our society, but are given only frames that say it’s an individual problem.

visioning-retreat-2-1024x620There is a collective aspect to the issue of mental health – for instance, suicide rates for trans youth are high, but the highest for youth who are both trans and of colour. The lack of physical and emotional safe space for marginalized people is clearly an impediment to mental well-being. We need to look at our feelings around vulnerability and power in order to create safer spaces and equitable dynamics. I think often about the concept of neurodiversity as it’s discussed with reference to people on the autism spectrum, and felt there was a connection here – the need to set up social and physical environments to encourage a diversity of ways of being. Safety and accessibility within groups are a big part of individual wellness.

A strong theme that was repeated by many people at different times, was the need to keep the youth voice at the centre of the organizing for the New Mentality, and any endeavor that seeks to serve or involve youth. It’s too easy for adult voices to take youth off their own track, even through approval or giving greater positive attention to things that coincide with an adult agenda. Here I found myself feeling that the Reggio Emilia approach (which is a philosophy of learning informed by Paulo Freire’s popular education among other influences), and its ground breaking practices for safeguarding the young child’s voice within a system constructed by adults, would help organizations not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to child and youth engagement. At some point I need to write or do workshops on using those concepts and practices within the social services realm.

During one of the activities, I had a talk with Cathy where we discussed the early experiences that caused us to go into the kind of work we do, how she has always worked within the system while I have always worked outside of it, but now the inner and outer ways are meeting.

After that activity, I was motivated to share with the group a story of a short energy-reading I did for a homeschooling mom who was feeling that she was low in resources and maybe should be putting her 9 year old in school. I saw something that I didn’t expect, which was that the mom’s energy was waning partially because her daughter’s energy was rising up to move outwards into the society. Even though 9 seems so young, I saw that children that age are already shaping the world that they will be moving into – shaping it with their imagination and their presence. So although we think of 9 year olds as not having much power because they don’t have access to things like the right to vote, money or public channels of expression, they do have powerful vibrational and creational power. We don’t have to give them all the answers, we just need to enshrine their right to remain true to who they are, then from that place they will build a world that comes out of that true place.

Cathy said something profound to me just after that, something like – between the discipline of offering guidance and the discipline of allowing, the allowing is the deeper discipline. I said that too much doing makes us think we don’t have enough resources. By doing less, we can move into abundance. Cathy worded it beautifully: the question is, how do we build systems of allowing?

groundsThe second day of the retreat, we did a personal check-in. During my check-in I talked about people who have gone through what is sometimes called a “spiritual emergency”. Sometimes triggered by meditation or other types of spiritual practice, people can have their ego structure disintegrate. I had something life-changing like this happen to me when I was 19 and I used to call it my breakdown/breakthrough. I know people who actively hid their abilities to experience states outside of consensus reality because they didn’t want that to be be misinterpreted or put them in danger from other people who didn’t understand. It has only been in the last several years that I have met other people who have gone through this spiritual breakdown phenomenon, but were hospitalized and put on medication. I didn’t realize how fortunate I was, in many ways, to have been left alone to go through my own “craziness” and to deal with my sensitivity on my own terms. I had to isolate myself to complete my process away from others, but I came out the other side with a more expanded model of reality – one that I now am able to share with my energy-reading work.

In order to be truly whole we need to be in connection and in community, and I see this is the layer of healing I am working on now. We all need a place to be heard and to have our gifts received. Community that can provide this is a powerful force for health. I notice how much environment affects the kind of interaction and community that can arise. By Lake Couchiching, I felt the peaceful vibe of the land made possible a lowering of people’s guard and a letting go of stress that interferes with intra & interpersonal connection.

During another activity on day two, we broke into two groups. The group I was in explored and used the Process Work/Deep Democracy approach. Since I have some understanding of it and use a related model in my energy healing work, I was able to give some concrete examples of role fluidity. I told a story about a private school that would eject one person out of the community each year, but each year it would be a different person that would get scapegoated and booted out. So using a Process Work lens, we as the community, would ask what does this have to do with us and what archetypal voice or role are we projecting onto these people? An example I gave of polarity was that I could hear a head-heart opposition in the group’s discussion of whether we needed to buckle down and be accomplishing more in the short time we had available or whether we just needed to build relationships and community because that is what brings about the real results we are looking for. Probably most people there are connected to both their head and their heart and try to honor both if they can – which is why they would be present for a dynamic where both are trying to be heard.

After that we did an exercise where we brainstormed a list of all the stakeholders and participants who are involved with the New Mentality. We then chose roles to roleplay and answered questions about the New Mentality from their perspective. My small group chose the role of teacher, which was interesting for me because I have little contact with the educational system and forget about the worldviews and tensions teachers and administrators in the school system have to hold.

lake2-320x320Later on in the day, I was given the opportunity to do some work with the group, using the sound healing I do to shift energy. Caralyn, the new program manager and I decided that what I should work on is helping each person to calibrate and internalize the originating energy behind the creation of the New Mentality. I did toning (voice-based sound healing) for about 12 minutes and shared a bit of intuitive information I received.

The energy I felt had such a clear stamp of youthfulness on it – I felt it came from a generation of youth who were at their limit in terms of coping on earth and did not want to be here anymore. They were asking on a spiritual level for some assistance in being here. The universe wanted them to know that they matter and their being here matters, and so that was part of the generating power behind the New Mentality, and I’m sure other innovative projects in different places. It gave them a place to be with others and the message that they were alright as they were, allowed to be accepted and in connection just as they were. I felt they also were being told that all they needed to do was to tell the truth about their experience. They did not have to only exist within the isolation of their own mind.

In terms of what the adult allies are able to offer, besides the creation of a safe inclusive space for the young people to be themselves, is language and ideas that help broaden their perspective, and see patterns. The most ideal way for them to go about providing these things for the youth in their groups, is to give this safe space and postive broadening messages to themselves first – eg I matter, me being here matters. Then they are able to naturally extend this to the youth they work with.

I had the chance to have some wonderful interactions with people during the weekend. Certain ideas kept coming up for me, mainly the need to be able to remain oneself while simultaneously being in connection to others and in community. I was left mulling over the questions: in what ways can we create the conditions for sovereignty, autonomy and self-love for all people within the context of community, and how do we create “systems of allowing”?

Welcome to The New Mentality, Jasmine Ali!

The New Mentality is super excited to announce that we have added a new staff member to our team: Jasmine Ali is our new Engagement Coordinator!

Jasmine has been with The New Mentality for some time and has had a number of different roles – recently and memorably, as one of our Lead Hosts at Disable the Label 2014, and as a speaker and spoken word performer at the last CMHO Conference.

Jasmine will be working on our Social Innovation project, supporting our communications and coordinating the Fellowship Program (more info on that coming soon!). Her bio is below, and you can reach her at Please join us in welcoming Jasmine to the team!

Jasmine Ali is a Spoken Word and Theatre artist who loves working with young people andcommunities moving towards change. Jasmine uses her artfulness to allow for conversations and collective learning to take place. Jasmine works to create equity within spaces by dismantling systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing opportunity.

Jasmine has put continuous effort into improving the opportunities available to young people in Ontario. She currently sits on the Premier’s Council for Youth Opportunities and previously sat on the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Youth Council. Jasmine is heavily rooted in her local community through organizations such as the Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC) and SKETCH Working Arts. She is also a graduate of the Community Worker program at George Brown College. As a long-standing member of The New Mentality, Jasmine is thrilled to be a part of this work in a new capacity and being socially innovative.

Meet Kiana, our new placement student!


My name is Kiana Browne, and I’m a cartoonist living in Toronto. I create figurative illustrations with hard shots of colour and I work almost exclusively in ink and digital arts. Part of the work I do aims to explore my illness and identity through surrealism and print media. I’m currently doing placement within the Community Artist Training Program at SKETCH Working Arts. SKETCH is a creative enterprise that aims to support street-involved and marginalized youth in arts based programming across the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to receiving invaluable training and experience in designing, collaborating and leading community arts projects, initiatives and workshops, I’ve also been given the opportunity to seek a placement with another organization. Which, ideally, centres around a particular discipline or area of interest and that I’m enthusiastic about.

I’ve always been passionate about advocacy and creative work regarding psychiatric care, institutionalization, stigma and youth with mental health issues and illness and their experiences of various social services across Toronto. Through community projects, volunteering and personal experience, I’ve definitely identified what it is that I’m most dedicated to. In this, The New Mentality seemed like an amazing opportunity to continue to help and support youth experiencing mental health issues or illness in any way possible. I am extremely grateful and overjoyed to be able to take part in the growing positivity, acceptance and active reduction of stigma surrounding mental illness in a creative way!


Kingston New Mentality Bell Let’s Talk Recap

Wednesday, January 28th 2015, The Kingston New Mentality had 4 individual presentations planned for Bell Let’s Talk Day!

We were trying something we had never done before, working with students from grades 1-12 during the afternoon and then switching gears by presenting for last year students in the teacher’s college at Queens. We were invited to Quintilian Private School (for grades 1 through 12) by one of our Facilitators, Beth, as she is currently doing her placement for college there. Beth had started the conversation surrounding children and youth mental health and the stigma associated with mental illness by handing out Bell Let’s Talk bracelets to the Quintilian students the week before January 28th. We had three presentations at Quintilian: 55 minute presentation to grades 6-12, 20 minute presentation with grades 3-5, and a 20 minute presentation with grades 1-3.


Group members arrived at our designated meeting area at approximately 11am to go over schedules, personal stories, and to address any concerns from members. We were faced with our first obstacle: some members being sick or unable to come. We were fortunate enough to have some new volunteers the night before who we were able to bring in the last minute.

Our first presentation went off without a hitch! We even tried out a skit for the first time, using it to explain stigma instead of trying to come up with words to define it. We had one member, Hannah, who was telling her story for the first time and did a fabulous job! We encountered our third obstacle of the day, our presentation didn’t take nearly as long as we wanted so we were left with a solid 20 minutes to fill. We were saved by a Quintilian teacher who suggested we break into smaller groups to talk more intimately about the subjects discussed. These breakout groups were great for NM members to become more engaged with audience members and hopefully made more of a personal connection with them as well. When brought back as a larger group we had amazingly brave students comment on the fact that they do take medication and or see a counselor and it’s O.K. and most importantly it’s O.K. to talk about! We were making a difference!

Our momentum for the day sped up until we encountered our fourth obstacle in between presentations (20 minute recess): half of our primary audience went home sick during gym. After discussing with staff members and making sure NM members were alright with a change, we decided to not do a presentation in the primary class (where we were going to utilize the Iris the Dragon book series), and would make our lower elementary class presentation 45 minutes long instead of 20 minutes. In order to do that, we had 3 people tell their stories instead of 1 and incorporated icebreakers such as where the wind blows and the line game. Because we had such incredible new mentality members, we were able to be flexible without too much anxiety or confusion. We focused this presentation more on personal stories and coping strategies then stigma itself. The audience was in total attention during our stories and enjoyed themselves during our activities. Again, at the end of the presentation when asked for questions or comments, we had multiple brave students comment on the fact that they take medication for ADHD and liked the coping strategies we had showed them. Overall, our experience at Quintilian was fantastic and we were so grateful to have been invited!


With only 30 minutes between presentations, we were quickly off to our next presentation at Duncan McArthur Hall on Queens Campus. We had one more NM member join us, as well as our Adult Ally, Tammy Halladay. Fifth obstacle: one of our members wasn’t feeling well but after some communication and food searching we were able to help her out with time to rest before we started. We started this presentation unlike most of our others, with a poem written by a former NM member, Pauline, read out line by line by NM presenters. We were awarded by quite the applause from audience members and our final presentation had begun! Our first personal story brought tears to audiences eyes with powerful words from Jessica. We were faced with our sixth, and final obstacle of the day: Our 10 minute video decided to work without sound, so after some awkward moments of silence and struggling with the technology in the classroom we decided to scrap the video and instead tell another, unplanned, personal story. Again, every single group member rose to the occasion when flexibility was needed, which can be difficult for any presenter, skilled or not. We were able to make more audience members cry with each story that passed, which may I say is not our intent of telling our stories but it is nice to know that people are listening and genuinely engaged in what we were saying. After a very busy day, 7 hours, 3 presentations, and 6 obstacles that could have affected us negatively, we were rewarded with the high of positive praise, personal accomplishment, and the idea that maybe society is in fact, changing to have a new mentality.
— Kingston New Mentality Group

Job Posting: Engagement Coordinator

Start Date: ASAP – February
Full-time, one year Contract
Position based in Toronto with occasional travel within Ontario
Compensation: $35,000 annual salary
PDF Version: TNM Engagement Coordinator Posting


The New Mentality (TNM) seeks an energetic Engagement Coordinator to join our core team. The Engagement Coordinator will support TNM’s Social Innovation project, focusing on our scaling activities. This will include developing new pathways to engagement, communications, and event planning. This person will have a natural understanding of flexibility, timing and going with where the energy is, while at the same time able to hold a long-term strategy and vision


Working closely with the TNM core team, focused primarily on TNM’s current Social Innovation Project, the Engagement Coordinator will be supervised by the Program Manager. The TNM work environment is highly collaborative, and while this role will have distinct areas of responsibility, most major project decisions are made within a team. The Coordinator will have two main areas of work:
Network Communications and Engagement

  • Support TNM’s efforts to further promote Youth Engagement in different communities and in governmental and non-governmental spheres
  • Represent TNM at events and consultations
  • Establish, build and maintain relationships with diverse range of stakeholders
  • Promote TNM activities on website and social media
  • Design program materials, including training materials, reports, and resources
  • Coordinate digital media, including live tweeting, facebook posts, and photography
  • Ongoing stakeholder and community engagement – help shape TNM Vision

Fellowship Program

As part of our engagement strategy, TNM has begun to develop the concept around a Fellowship program. A significant part of the coordinator’s job will be to work with the team to help shape the vision for this project, to develop a comprehensive workplan, oversee the details of the project, and link the learnings of the Fellowship back to our Social Innovation project. The tasks involved will include:

  • Work with TNM core team on program conceptualization and design
  • Develop promotional materials to publicize Fellowship
  • Design application process, assess applications and work with team to select Fellows
  • Plan and Coordinate all Fellowship related activities, including orientation, retreats, and ongoing communications and engagement
  • Share ongoing learning with the core team, write reports to share learning with the funder, and other communications to share with the wider network


The ideal candidate loves working with people and in groups, and thrives on building connections and strengthening relationships. They love listening and learning from others, and are also comfortable and excited to share their own ideas. Because this role is within Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s New Mentality Program, the ideal candidate is excited to learn more about and contribute to strengthening mental health services for youth across Ontario. Perhaps they will know first-hand how to recover from a mental health problem like depression and that makes them passionate about this cause. Perhaps they are a visible minority or a person living with a disability and it is from this perspective that they have a passion for empowering youth to make a positive difference in their communities.

Desired Skills, Knowledge, and Experience

  • Heart-centred strategic and systems thinker; interested in working with complexity
  • Fast learner, very creative, and flexible
  • Ability to synthesize information and communicate messages in a creative and engaging manner
  • Understand how to and enjoy crafting targeted communications materials to appeal to diverse audiences and stakeholders
  • Comfort and experience working in a very collaborative team, as well as confidence to take initiative and work independently
  • Ability to connect with people quickly – an excellent listener
  • Comfortable talking to media and large groups of people
  • Group facilitation experience
  • Writing & organizational skills
  • Social media enthusiast and expert, skilled at making creative use of different channels
  • Knowledge of graphic design and Adobe creative suite
  • Basic web development skills and knowledge of WordPress platform


Apply be sending the following documents to Caralyn Quan, New Mentality Program Manager,

Purpose Statement in your preferred format
Note: While this could take the form of a cover letter, creative communications are an important element of this role, thus we encourage creativity and would welcome a creatively written purpose statement, or other artwork, digital media, videos, etc. Just make sure you express why you want to work with The New Mentality and why you’re a great fit for this job!

Non-fiction writing sample (a report you’ve written for professional purposes, an academic essay, a reflection piece, etc.)


TNM Engagement Coordinator Posting PDF

Bell Let’s Talk January 28, 2015

If this question doesn’t speak to you write about something you are passionate about or share your story. This is meant for you to have the chance to say what speaks to your heart and your current journey.
Feel free to express yourself through song, poems, creative writing pieces, reflection papers, videos, photography, or art!
Please Mary-Anne Leahy ASAP ( if you’re interested!

Adult Ally Youth Engagement Excellence Awards

The New Mentality Excellence in Youth Engagement Award is granted to adult allies who have been pioneers and visionaries in shaping the field of youth engagement. They are provincial leaders in youth engagement and have made significant contributions to The New Mentality. These adult allies have created meaningful partnerships between youth and adult that have allowed for genuine youth engagement to happen.

Congratulations to Tammy Halliday, Kelly Giuliani, Lisa Kalfus, Nancy Hood, Rita Gidillini, Michelle Moran, Angela Culham, and Brenda Allard!!

These inspiring adult allies have overcome significant systemic barriers to make youth engagement happen in their communities. They have contributed their own personal time and resources and have demonstrated wildly resourceful and creative solutions to extremely complex problems related to youth engagement. They have changed the lives of the youth that have crossed their path; the importance of an adult ally cannot be underestimated. Having an adult ally that believes in you, that will fight for the work you’re doing makes all the difference. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication!
Our adult ally awards recipients were honoured at an awards reception at CMHO’s annual conference. Entertainment and awards hosting was provided by the Spoke N Heard Collective!

Tammy Halliday

Tammy Halliday has been much loved by The New Mentality Group at Pathways for Children and Youth for many years. She faithfully ensures the group is well supported, even driving each youth home after meetings. Tammy has worked with her colleagues at Pathways to champion Youth Engagement practice so that the agency sees it as a core part of the work of the agency. She has always brought the largest (and wildest!) co-hort of youth to The New Mentality’s Disable the Label training. She has served on The New Mentality’s Core Team, providing governance and leadership support and has offered The Art of Youth Engagement training for staff and youth. Tammy makes sure that the Youth Engagement language and training materials make sense to front-line Child and Youth Workers, like herself. She’s practical and honest and cares deeply for every youth she’s worked with, be it in the classroom where she spends her days or in the New Mentality group where she spends many nights.

Kelly Giuliani

Kelly Giuliani is a leader extraordinaire! She has the longest-running New Mentality group and the largest mental health promotion events. When Kelly first got into Youth Engagement, in 2007, it made sense immediately. She was then a Program Coordinator for a mentorship program with Reach Out Centre for Kids. She could see that youth had a lot to offer, as shown by the powerful youth mentors she matched with younger children. With a small, mighty team of youth leaders and agency partners, Kelly’s group has been able to host 5 Disable the Label conferences in Halton region. These events bring together representatives from each of the high-schools in the District to learn about mental health and plan Children’s Mental Health Week events. Kelly knows how to work with youth, how to creatively partner with other agencies and how to make a big impact. The youth she has supported over the years have been some of the strongest voices and leaders in The New Mentality development.

Lisa Kalfus

Lisa is one of the only Managers to have significantly contributed to The New Mentality. Lisa holds the responsibility of Managing the Residential Program at New Path Youth and Family Services in Simcoe County. Lisa has been a very active volunteer and leader for The New Mentality. She has served on The New Mentality’s Core Team, providing governance support and has worked with many agencies as a Youth Engagement trainer. Lisa has helped the field of Youth Engagement grow by practicing and sharing how youth can be engaged in a residential program. Her work to transform her agency’s annual general meetings, allowing them to be youth-led is a marvel and a model for others to follow. She has worked with us on a provincial level to get funding for The New Mentality and on a local level to ensure that Youth Engagement is thoroughly evaluated. Lisa has been a champion of youth engagement in her region bringing together all the children’s services in Simcoe for Youth Engagement training. Lisa is an in-the-field expert and we are so grateful for all that she teaches us.

Nancy Hood

Nancy Hood started her career with The New Mentality. In that way, she was positioned at the very start of the movement for Youth Engagement. She started with the program at the very beginning in 2007. Her work created the sector’s first implementation guide for youth-adult partnerships, called Ready…Set…Engage. She was also instrumental in building the Art of Youth Engagement training program now delivered by the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. Nancy was more than a thought leader, she dynamically engaged youth in all kind of areas including evaluation, governance and led the New Mentality Speakers Bureau of youth who made presentations in schools and conferences. Nancy wanted to test her ideas in an agency and took the role as Youth Engagement Coordinator for Nexus in 2011. There she was instrumental in embedding Youth Engagement as a core practice for the drop-in centre and helped Peel Children’s Centre and Nexus meet the Youth Engagement accreditation standards during the Canadian Centre for Accreditation site review. Those standards she helped draft, setting the bar for the whole province and paving the way for Youth Engagement to be embedded as a Core Process in the system

Rita Gidillini

Rita’s Youth Engagement work is a tour de force! She managed to support her youth through the growing pains of those first couple years when none of her colleagues knew what she was talking about and had to consistently ask permission from the agency to modify rules, policies and procedures that would allow for youth volunteers to lead and create their own events on behalf of Windsor Regional Children’s Centre. She’s no stranger to late night meetings at Tim Hortons or hospital bake sales to get her group the support it needs. She’s always able to adapt and get ready to move with each new youth’s big idea. She’s supported a wildly successful battle of the bands, a children’s festival, a volleyball tournament and a partnership with the Children’s Aid Society to promote youth engagement. Rita was on the Advisory Committee when the Art of Youth Engagement training program was being developed and piloted. She was eager to take risks because she knows the power of Youth Engagement and wants to help other agencies and staff see for themselves. When she’s at Disable the Label, she always positive, upbeat and ready for a game of soccer. All youth, not only the one’s she brings trust Rita and knows she embodies “Adult Ally”.

Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran was more than a formative contributor to The New Mentality, she was a mentor. Long before The New Mentality came on the scene, Michelle was embedding Youth Engagement practice into her newly developed bullying-prevention program, RISE. Michelle was a manager for the very youthful and engaging East Metro Youth Services in Scarborough. Michelle is one of the best trainers in Youth Engagement there is. Even before the Art of Youth Engagement training program, Michelle was working with SafeGuards to deliver her own training. She even partnered with Nancy Hood to jointly offer their program. When the Youth Engagement Accreditation Standards were written they named the bar of excellence that Michelle and her colleagues had set. It was Michelle who graciously helped to pilot test those standards and Michelle who helped ensure the training program provided not only good theory but practical application as well. When she would come to Disable the Label and share her thoughts and advice on Youth Engagement, the whole room would be captivated. When the agency wanted Youth Engagement to be part of all the Community Programs, Michelle didn’t hesitate to help her staff work in these new ways. Michelle is the Adult Ally’s Adult Ally.

Angela Culham

Angela has been working in Lanark County for youth for many years. As a front-line clinician, Angela has an easy time building rapport with young people. When Angela was first introduced to Youth Engagement and worked with her first cohort of youth, Youth Overcoming Pressure (YOP), she lit the passion in their eyes and the eyes of the agency. Together, with Angela’s support, the youth wrote a book called Drug Speak, recounting true stories of drug use and recovery for young people. Now, in the second generation of The New Mentality group now called Just a Couple of Teens Talking, Anglela and her youth Leader, Jaydon are uniting the all the other schools in the youth-led movement for mental health and awareness. It is a reflection of Angela’s skill in youth engagement as a clinical intervention and health promotion endeavour that, during a recent meeting with her agency, Open Doors, the Clinical Director talked about The New Mentality as being the most effective population-based mental health treatment they have.

Brenda Allard

Brenda never misses a chance to advocate for the rights of youth. She doesn’t hesitate to ask the tough questions, “Is there an honorarium for youth? How is power shared equally with youth? How are youth not tokenized by this staff’s ideas?” For more than 20 years Brenda has been working with Youth Services Bureau. She supports 6 or more youth committees on topics ranging from sexual health to ethno-cultural youth engagement. When The New Mentality started, Brenda took us to school! “Don’t forget this” and “make sure to do that”, she would say. Of course, she would be right. Her knowledge and understanding of how to engage youth, how to create pathways in agencies to engage youth, how to engage her supervisors and directors so she can engage youth is decade ahead of many others. Brenda has been walking the walk and talking the talk long before the term “Youth Engagement” came around. Her tenacity and power ensures that her programs and The New Mentality stays ‘real’ and stays accountable to youth.

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,

Social Innovation Funding Announcement

The New Mentality is pleased to announce that we have received funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation to embark on a two-year social innovation project. The New Mentality has grown steadily as a network over its 7 years. As The New Mentality continues to grow, this funding will support us to:

  • Evaluate our current activities in terms of impact on agency practices, policies, and individual mental health outcomes.
  • Test and implement new approaches to supporting youth engagement in more communities across Ontario.
  • Develop a new business model to support an expanded presence of the New Mentality across Ontario.

About The New Mentality

The New Mentality is a network of youth facilitated groups from across Ontario who work with partner agencies in their communities to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Each group has dedicated youth and adult allies who work together on projects throughout the year to promote meaningful engagement by empowering youth to concentrate on the work they are most passionate about. We work to foster youth voice to influence change within the mental health system and beyond. The New Mentality is a program of Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

About the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation engages Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient society. For more information about the McConnell Social Innovation Fund, visit

Rethinq Reality Video Challenge

What is your vision for mental health in your community?

Record a short video of you sharing your vision for mental health in your community. Tell us: What is your vision for mental health in your community?

Videos are not being judged and elaborate production is not necessary just be yourself! Record yourself on your webcam or smartphone and send it our way, we want your voice, the simpler the better!

About Rethinq Reality!

The New Mentality is a network of youth-led groups operating in partnership with children’s mental health centres across the province. Our goal is to raise mental health awareness, decrease stigma towards mental illness, and support healthy communities.

We’re always looking for different ways for youth voice to help shape our work, and ultimately the mental health system. Rethinq Reality is an opportunity for youth from across Ontario to share their vision of Mental Health.


Maximum 2 minutes
Open to youth age 13-25
Videos must be original and not infringe on copy right laws
Videos must not contain violence, substance abuse, self harm, or depictions of suicideBy submitting a video, participants give Children’s Mental Health Ontario the right to use the video in both The New Mentality and CMHO media, including but not limited to websites, reports, bulletins, and videos.

If you have questions or need help submitting your video, contact

Disable the Label 2014 Video!

We’re so excited to share a video of Disable the Label 2014, put together by the incredible Spoke N Heard team! This video captures some of the beautiful moments we shared at our largest DTL ever, this past July at YMCA Geneva Park.

For photos and more information about the event, check out our Disable the Label page.