My Virtual Visit to Strides Toronto!

Hello everyone! 

I know you’re probably wondering… hey where did Fizza go? Is she still visiting groups virtually? the answer is YES! 

Last week I got to visit our TNM group in Toronto at Strides Toronto and let me start off by saying that this has been one of the most anticipated virtual group visits thus far, as we had scheduled this back in early January!

I can’t even put into words how truly amazing these youth and adult allies are! They do such great work in their community, and are always looking for ways to uplift the message and mission of The New Mentality. 

I got the privilege to attend their Virtual Talent Not Required Show, which is a staple of The New Mentality and our annual Disable the Label (DTL) retreat! I got to meet the youth just before the event, and it was so much fun just laughing, reconnecting and gave me complete DTL vibes that we all love and enjoy so much. 

What I noticed instantly was how supportive the youth were of one another. Youth who have been a part of TNM for many years were encouraging and uplifting youth who have recently joined as they emceed their first event! 

As the event began, we heard poetry, singing, saw beautiful artwork, a dance performance, watched beautiful instruments be played, and even witnessed one youth complete a Zelda game in under 5 minutes… I don’t think this was truly a Talent Not Required Show because everyone was SO incredibly talented! We even played such fun games during intermission and youth won prizes throughout the event. 

It was so heartwarming to see how supportive everyone was of another, from the messages continuously coming through the chat box, zoom reactions filling the screens with hearts, to all the claps and snaps – it was the best way to spend my Thursday evening! 

Thank you to all the youth and adult allies at Strides Toronto for all the uncontrollable laughs! I am so proud of all of you, as you continue to change the world and inspire all those around you. I can’t wait to be cheering you all on as you do! 

See you all soon on Zoom,

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator 

Staying Connected During Ramadan

Hello and Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) Friends! 

Ramadan Mubarak to all those celebrating today or tomorrow! Just like last year, the next month of Ramadan will look quite different once again. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the month of Ramadan, it is a month where Muslims around the world take time to reflect, give back to their community and fast during the day, abstaining from eating and drinking in addition to abstaining from swearing, gossiping, arguing etc.

Muslims will begin their fast just before sunrise with a meal called “sehri or suhoor” which loosely translates to a meal that is eaten early in the morning, and fasting ends just after sunset, with a meal called “iftaar”. This is a time for blessings, and is a month that many Muslims really look forward to as it is a time to spend with loved ones, give back to the community and other charitable causes, and eat lots of delicious meals! 

Though we won’t gather for our big Iftaar parties with our friends and family this year, be able to go to the Mosque for Friday prayers, or attend all the Melas last minute to purchase our best Eid outfits just days before… it doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to connect with our community!

Here are some ways I’ll be staying connected and prioritizing self care, and you can too:

  • Connect With a Local or (Global!) Mosque

Many mosques are finding safe ways to keep connected and support their community during this month. Connecting with your local mosque might spark ideas for you and your family about how to feel closer to community during this time. Many mosques hold great opportunities to stay connected whether that’s having a virtual iftaar party, a drive-thru pick up of your iftaar meals, social events and so much more. Look to your local mosque to see how you can get connected, or why not try something new, and connect virtually with a mosque globally! Scroll down below and see some mosques and organizations that are hosting amazing virtual events this Ramadan. 

  • Find New Ways to Connect With Friends and Family

Gathering with friends and family is a special and important part of Ramadan for many and it is natural to experience feelings of sadness or grief over not being able to gather this year. Collaborate with close friends and family on different ways you can safely connect this year through Zoom or FaceTime calls, to still feel close to loved ones during this time. I know I’ll definitely be hosting a virtual Iftaar party with my friends and family! 

  • Give Back to the Community 

Ramadan is a time to give back to the community and other charitable causes! For myself personally giving back is very important as it gives me a great sense of motivation, and encourages me to find new initiatives that I can support in my community. Every Ramadan, I try to find different organizations to donate to, volunteer my time for, or support in any way I can. This helps me to stay connected, and support community initiatives which is an important aspect of Ramadan. 

  • Balance Between Rest & Action 

Fasting can also bring about changes to your energy levels and for some that might mean needing to take more moments of rest. Others might want and enjoy getting active and getting outdoors (safely). Take a few moments in your day to check-in on what you need. These moments can be great acts of self-care.

  • Communicate Your Needs 

For many the month of Ramadan can bring changes to your daily schedules and routines. As it feels comfortable, communicate your needs with those around you. For some that might be moving your lunch hour to accommodate for time for prayer, for others that might be starting your workday a bit earlier or later. Communicate what feels best for you and your needs.

Looking to learn more? Here is another great resource from Fahmida Kamali on how to support Muslim communities during the month of Ramadan.

There are so many incredible initiatives and organizations to support that continue to do great work for the community not just during Ramadan, but throughout the year. Below you will find just a few places that are offering virtual programming to stay connected! 

  • Naseeha Muslim Youth HelplineProvide a safe zone for youth and individuals to talk and get the help they need
  • Who Is Hussain Toronto –  A social justice movement with teams in 90 cities across the globe. They host regular events to help the homeless, provide meals to people in need and donate blood to save lives – and much more.
  • Nisa Homes a non-government, not-for-profit charitable organization that provides a safe haven and support services to women, children and families who are experiencing homelessness and/or domestic and family violence, poverty or seeking asylum.
  • Reconstructed Magazine – A creative Magazine run by Black, Shi’a, and queer Muslims seeking to reconstruct what it looks like to carry closeness to Islam. 
  • Masjid al-Rabia – a BIPOC led, LGBTQ+ affirming, and racially accessible Islamic Community Centre focused on spiritual support for marginalized Muslims. 
  • The Muslim Alliance for Sexual & Gender Diversity – Works to support, empower, and connect LGBTW Muslims. 
  • Khalil Centre – A psychological and spiritual community wellness center advancing the professional practice of psychology rooted in Islamic principles.

Please note: The descriptions mentioned above have been taken directly from the website/social pages of these organizations, initiatives, and mosques and you can find out more about them by clicking on the links above. 

If you have any questions or comments at all please feel free to email me at

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Visit to Open Doors for Lanark Children & Youth!

Hi everyone,

I’ve had a blast these last couple months getting to meet such amazing youth and adult allies across the province! Last week, I had the chance to visit another awesome TNM group with our partner agency Open Doors for Lanark Children & Youth. I’ve been eager to visit this group ever since they became a part of our network late last year! 

This group has been doing such a wonderful job building relationships with one another, and I could really tell how the adult allies have created an environment that encourages youth to be bold, and brave. It is so important in the times we are in now to really focus on building relationships since we’ve gone virtual, we’re all missing that in person connection. We spent the meeting connecting with one another, and I came to know that a youth in the group has been on TV multiple times, and will be starring in a film soon….. I was SO starstruck being in the presence of a celebrity. 

We spent the meeting having conversations on recruitment strategies, school mental health, and so much more! We also spoke about the work we’re doing at The New Mentality surrounding anti-racism and mental health. Something that really stood out the most to me was when a youth in the group shared about the reality of speaking on topics such as politics, race, and religion were something that folks would never discuss in the past because they were considered taboo in society. More recently, we’ve been able to give these topics more attention, encourage them to be discussed, and have had healthy conversations surrounding them. 

Having these conversations can be uncomfortable for many, but this group has created an environment where everyone is cared for, where they are encouraged to learn and unlearn together. I was incredibly impressed and proud to see the group share with me the growth they’ve experienced during the pandemic and have created a virtual space that has felt safe and comfortable for them. 

I’m so happy I got the chance to spend time with the group, and am looking forward to visiting them again and continuing our conversations together. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing our celebrity youth on TV soon! 

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Virtual Visit to Woodview Mental Health & Autism Services!

Hello everyone,

I’ve really been having so much fun visiting all our groups across the province virtually, and sharing with all of you my experience! I’ve heard from many youth and adult allies that they have been inspired by the awesome projects our groups are working on.

Last week I had the chance to visit another incredible TNM group in Brantford with our partner agency Woodview Mental Health & Autism Services! Before the pandemic, I was eager to meet this group in person and was so happy to have the chance to visit their group virtually. It was also their first time meeting one of their new adult allies who was joining the group! 

We began the meeting with a great check in question, check in questions are a great facilitation technique as they help to ground us and see how folks are doing and adjusting the way we facilitate accordingly. The question asked was “what is your brag/drag?” My brag was definitely getting to meet the group, as I had been eagerly waiting all week! From the check ins, I learned that I definitely need to start watching WandaVision, and that there are so many new Pokémon that I had no idea about…..I wish I had the chance to quickly go grab my Pokémon card collection from 17 years ago….

After checking in, we heard updates from the adult allies and it was so nice to see that the group encourages and promotes events happening in other New Mentality groups. In the updates they shared that our New Mentality group with The Maltby Centre in Kingston will be hosting a Men’s Mental Health event! I really appreciated this, as it furthered showcased how amazing and supportive our network is of one another. 

After the updates, I came to know of the many projects our group is working on, from creating social media content, to hosting a talent not required show for Children’s Mental Health Week, working on a podcast, creating a brochure for adult allies to know how to best support youth and so much more, that I don’t even think I can capture in one blog! 

The group spent time discussing each of their projects, but their main focus was on reviewing a draft version of their brochure. I really appreciated how youth were supporting one another through the conversations on how to better present the brochure. I was incredibly impressed by the youth who created the brochure using Canva, and I’m starting to notice a pattern of all the awesome Canva and PowerPoint stars we have in our network. Definitely giving up the Canva Crown to all the amazing youth in our network.

After working for a bit, we spent the end of the meeting playing a game of Psych! If you haven’t heard of this game you have to play it, it’s so funny and the responses that the youth came up with during the game were so creative and hilarious! 

I’m so happy I got the chance to meet these brilliant changemakers that make up our network, and can’t wait to visit them again… and hopefully try out our lip syncing Brady Bunch style Zoom show!

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Virtual Visit to Peterborough Youth Services!

Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking….She is still travelling Ontario virtually? I’m just getting started!

Last week, I had the chance to connect with our New Mentality group in Peterborough that is with our partner agency Peterborough Youth Services. It was my first time meeting a group virtually through Microsoft Teams, and not Zoom… I felt like I was truly a fish out of water!

It was so nice to connect with the adult allies before meeting the youth and to hear how they’ve been adjusting to the virtual world. Fun fact: Peterborough Youth Services’ Executive Director is one of the two adult allies than run The New Mentality group, how cool is that?

There were no introductions needed! The group and I got straight into talking about all the shows we’ve been binge-watching lately, and the Netflix parties we’ve been having with our friends. We collectively decided that we needed to finally add Bridgerton next on our shows to binge watch list. 

The youth shared with me that they are working on two murals for Peterborough Youth Services. I could tell how thoughtful and intentional the youth and adult allies were when having discussions around what type of message they would like to push forward both at the agency and community level. They want to highlight themes of growth, inclusivity, and equity! One youth took time to design visuals for what the mural could look like, and I was stunned by how beautiful the designs looked. In fact, I thought the images were taken from Google, but I was mistaken!  

These youth are always looking for new ways to advocate in their community, and to get the word out there of amazing work that they are up to! In addition to the mural, the youth are also working on planning to host a talent show in the coming months, which was so exciting to hear. 

I still can’t stop laughing about this, but the funniest part of it all was when I was trying to take a group photo, but couldn’t figure out how to take screenshot and still have everyone be a part of the picture on Microsoft Teams! It took many….many tries, and I appreciate the youth for being very patient with me and laughing along the way. 

I can’t wait to meet the youth again, and hopefully take a “real” group photo in front of their amazing future mural! 

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Virtual Group Visit to The Hub!

These past 4 weeks have been amazing, getting to meet our New Mentality groups from across the province! 

Last week, I had the chance to connect with the adult allies of our New Mentality group in Elgin and Oxford counties that are with our partner agency Wellkin Child and Youth Mental Wellness. Before I do my virtual group visit, I make sure that I connect with the adult allies beforehand. It is important to me to recognize the incredible adult allies that make up our network, and all the hard work they put in! 

I was eager to meet the adult allies, as they have been so busy working hard to support their youth and their community. I’m a pretty big fan of these two adult allies, as I’ve seen how they uplift their youth and make sure their voices are heard at every level. As always, this group is so busy from working on implementing and building sensory walls at their agency, writing an open letter to the employers of youth in their community, working on a big Children’s Mental Health Week event coming up in a few months and on top of that running their weekly Youth Hub on Thursdays… and you might not believe me, but I’ve just touched the surface of all the work they are doing!

I really appreciate the adult allies as they continuously share with their youth the importance of flowing between rest and action. With all of us, having almost been a year into the pandemic, it’s important to make time for rest and play. 

After many laughs, and connecting over the many accomplishments the group has done and continues to do, I was eager to attend The Hub where one of the youth would be hosting a games night for youth in the community. The Hub is a weekly drop-in wellness space for youth aged 13 to 25,  and youth from our New Mentality group at Wellkin were leaders in creating this space. I learned that initially The Hub was supposed to happen in person, but due to COVID they quickly turned it into a Virtual Hub! In the times we are in now, it’s important to prioritize relationship building. To learn more about The Hub click here, and about the exciting news that Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fund has funded to expand the Hub here

I was eager to attend and learn new games to play online! I was so impressed by the youth in our network who was leading and facilitating the session. There was fun music playing at the beginning to get us dancing, a warm welcome, and a powerful acknowledgement of the land we are on. I loved that everyone was given the option through Zoom polls to choose what game they would like to play, and the majority of us selected our first game to be Pop Culture Trivia which was so fun and so well put together, not to mention there were some big Marvel fans in the space! After that, we played emoji decoding, and again I was so amazed by how much work and effort was put into planning this…..and as the renowned PowerPoint queen, I might have to give my title up to this youth! 

I’m looking forward to visiting all the youth virtually again soon, and can’t wait for when we can gather again in person, and connect about all the amazing work they continue to do!  

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

TNM’s Anti-Racism Direction – Update and Opportunity

Hello TNM Community, 

Since our last update in November, a lot has been cooking behind the scenes that we would like to share. 

For those who participated in Disable the Label 2020: Reconnect & Reconvene and the Open Forum: Why is it so hard to talk about race in our network? at the end of 2020, you know we were planning on launching an anti-racism program this month. We want you to know that we haven’t stopped, and our commitment still remains that we will continue to embed anti-racism frameworks into all our network’s advocacy work and community. 

This is the first important thing we want you to know: we have learned that by  going fast and by not thinking and feeling through things, we create problems and contribute to existing problems. A part of our learning about being anti-racist is to slow things down. This is also why we haven’t started meeting again as a network. We’re not quite ready enough. 

We decided that we needed to take a step back before we planned more conversations with everybody. We did this for a few reasons. 

We know that we’ve built trust when it comes to our annual programming such as Disable the Label, asking you to step into the unknown feels somehow comfortable at times because the vision, intention, and outcome is clear and is being held full heartedly by our hosting team. That took many years to build. We need some time to really develop our work before we ask our network to step in. 

We want to slow down the processes in order to do it with intention. In order to deliver Disable the Label 2020, Disable the Label 2020: Reconnect and Reconvene, and the December 2020 Open Forum we had to move at a pace that was so quick it didn’t allow us to really communicate the purpose, goals, and plan of our work. It also didn’t leave space for the emotional labour of our work. 

We are now working with an advisory team of folks who are familiar to the network to hold this work and build the container for it. They are Duane Hall (known as lighthaüs), Devonna Munroe (known as Devynne), Jenny Katz, and Vanessa Reid.  

We know we will make mistakes, and that there will be roadblocks along the way – we are not striving for perfection – we know that with this group and engagement from our network, we will create something that allows our network to go deep with our anti-racism conversations and hold the space needed to host this important work. 

The goals of this advisory group is to: 

  1. Evaluate, reflect, and create documentation that highlights our journey thus far, lessons learned, things we would continue to do (timeline of this reflection is May-December 2020) 
  2. Develop 1-3 actionable strategy for TNM to embed anti-racism frameworks into our advocacy work and network culture

We would like these two deliverables to be completed by April 2021. 

We are now catching up with all that we’ve learned since June and in the past on the topic of TNM and racism and our efforts towards anti-racism.

We need your help. 

We need our youth and adult allies’ wisdom and reflection – youth will be compensated for their time, energy, and knowledge through honorariums.
*Please contact us before submitting to confirm honorarium. 

Here’s a way to get involved. If what you read below isn’t what you want to do, but you want to be involved in some other way, let us know!

Reflect on: 

  • DTL 2020 (and/or DTL 2018, 2019), and/or 
  • DTL 2020 Reconnect and Reconvene and/or 
  • December 2020 Open Forum 

We want your real, honest, and raw account through:

  • One word or sentence or longer
  • A piece of art
  • A poem
  • A song
  • Multimedia
  • A video
  • A conversation with Mary-Anne or Fizza (let us know who)

Here are some examples of things to tell us about:

  • What was comfortable?
  • What was uncomfortable?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What did you love or what excited you?
  • what do you never want us to do again?
  • What did you learn? 
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What did you learn about others?
  • What did you heal? 
  • How did you get hurt? 
  • How did you deal with that?
  • What advice or ideas or insights do you have for next steps or even far into the future?

Please send us your reflections pieces by: Monday, March 1, 2021. 

Email Mary-Anne, TNM Program Manager at and/or Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator at  

If you have any questions, concerns, feedback please reach out. 

With gratitude, 

Mary-Anne & Fizza 

My Virtual Visit to Our New Mentality Group in Kirkland Lake!

As many of you know, I’ve been road tripping across the province via Zoom!  

Last week I had the chance to visit our New Mentality group in Kirkland Lake, with our partner agency North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services (NEOFACS). Before the pandemic I was eager to visit Kirkland Lake, as I had heard so many great things about it from Mary-Anne, The New Mentality’s Program Manager!

Even though I wasn’t able to physically visit, my virtual visit was nothing short of absolutely amazing. The adult allies have been doing an awesome job keeping everyone engaged in this virtual world by dropping off pizza and snacks before the meeting (I know, I know, super cool!) 

For our New Mentality group in Kirkland Lake the restrictions with the pandemic have been quite different. A couple months ago, they were able to go bowling while social distancing and now are building relationships through Zoom. 

During my group visit, we played a game of which is a super fun game of Pictionary. Myself and one of the adult allies for our New Mentality Kirkland Lake group played this game during Disable the Label this past summer during a wellness night session! It is such a fun and competitive game, and let me tell you we really got into it… some folks even went and brought their stylus to play this game! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in some time. I apologize again to the group for my very poor drawing of Bambi…. 

After such a fun game, we talked about life in Kirkland Lake and I learned that some students drive a snowmobile to school, which solidified even more that I would like to move up there! 

Though the meeting was only meant to be an hour long, we stayed on the line just getting to know each other and connecting. The youth and I talked about the issues that are important to us to advocate for in the Child and Youth Mental Health system. One issue that was important is the experiences of Indigenous folks accessing services, and how important it is to see your identity reflected in your counsellor. Racialized youth should not need to question their identity in order to appeal to a system that wasn’t built for them in the first place. There is a need to build a system that breaks barriers, and recognizes all cultures and experiences. 

I can’t completely describe the feeling I had while visiting the youth and adult allies, but it was one of acceptance, laughter, and genuine connection. Ever since I’ve visited, I’ve been eager to visit again and also redeem myself in another game of… I’m coming back for that #1 spot!

I look forward to continuing my zoom road trip across the province, and getting to meet all of you. I’m not surprised at all and very proud to see all of you continuously going above and beyond to change the Child and Youth Mental Health system. 

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Virtual Group Visit to Our New Mentality Group in Toronto!

Last week I shared that I would be visiting our New Mentality groups across the province… virtually!

Well I haven’t stopped, yesterday I visited our New Mentality group in Toronto who are with our partner agency Lumenus Community Services!

It was so great getting to meet the youth facilitators, one of whom is also a part of our Youth Action Committee! It was so nice to hear about how the youth facilitators actually began as volunteers for the group. 

This group has consistently been doing amazing work in their community, and actually launched two resources last summer to help students with the transition to high school, and the transition out of high school. 

We were so incredibly proud to see resources created by youth for youth! 

Click here to read – The Transition to High School

Click here to read – The Transition out of High School 

We began our call talking about TV shows we’re watching, specifically The Office which I needed to get everyone’s opinion on before I really get invested.. I know I’m about 16 years or so late.

During the group visit, it was so nice to hear from youth why they joined the New Mentality. Youth shared that they wanted a space to be themselves, to get involved and be a part of a positive space. As someone who was a part of the network in the past as a youth facilitator, it was nice to hear that many of our experiences of starting in the network were similar. For myself, when I was joining the New Mentality it was important for me to see people that looked like, and see better representation in our network which is primarily reflective of the mental health sector.

We took time during the meeting to brainstorm ideas on recruitment and project ideas for the group as they begin the early stages of their anti-stigma project for the year. With everything going virtual, the possibilities are endless for projects, outreach and recruitment! 

I could tell how eager the youth were to get started, and I can’t wait to see what the group does as they work to better the Child and Youth Mental Health system. Thank you to the adult allies and youth for such a warm welcome, and I cannot wait for the day when I can visit your group in person. 

I Look forward to continuing to meet the changemakers that make up this incredible network, and seeing all the amazing work you’re doing across the province! 

Ps. In between my group visit and writing this blog I visited another New Mentality group, which I’ll be sharing about next week…. can you guess where I visited? 

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator

My Virtual Visit to our New Mentality Group in Kapuskasing!

Hello everyone!

I know I haven’t done this in a while! It has definitely been quite some time since I last visited one of our New Mentality groups across the province. As the Network Coordinator for the New Mentality, I love all the work I get to do in my role but what I love the most, and what has to be my absolute favourite part is getting to meet all of YOU! The incredible changemakers that make up this network.

With everything that is happening all around the world, I haven’t been able to visit all of you and I’ve been thinking to myself, hmm what could I do to make that happen? 

So, I’ve decided I’m going to be travelling all across Ontario…..VIRTUALLY! In the next few months, I will be visiting all of you through Zoom. I know, who would’ve thought last year, Zoom? 

My first stop of my virtual group visit was a couple days ago to Kapuskasing, who are with our partner agency North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services (NEOFACS). It’s always so nice to see our different groups and all the incredible change they bring to their communities!

This was their first group meeting of the year happening virtually on Zoom. Since they’re up North they’ve had to experience different forms of pandemic restrictions that differ from where I live in Southern Ontario. It was nice to see some familiar faces and some new folks joining the New Mentality! Adult allies shared about what the New Mentality is, our Theory of Change model, and asked youth to share their ideas for what they would like to do this year to reduce the stigma of mental health in their community. 

My favourite part of meeting the group was definitely when we played a game of Would You Rather, and all unanimously decided we would rather brush our teeth with soap than drink sour milk. Also a collective decision was made that we would much rather be wizards than superheroes any day. #TeamHarryPotter  

What I found most unique and special about the group, is that adult allies offer group meetings in both English and French which I really appreciated…so of course with my 6+ years of extended French education it was a great opportunity to practice a bit of my French! 

During the meeting we shared why the New Mentality was important to us, and why it is important to advocate for all youth voices, especially racialized youth across Ontario who don’t have the same access as their peers do. 

To end off the meeting there was a draw for youth to receive pizza from a favourite Kapuskasing restaurant & Pizzeria called Chez Lizette, which I can’t wait to try now! 

Thank you and Merci to the incredible adult allies and youth for welcoming me into your virtual space! I cannot wait to fly out to Kapuskasing and get to meet you all in person, when it’s safe to do so. Meeting all of you, excites me for the future and how you all will change the child and youth mental health system to make it work for all.   

I Look forward to continuing to meet all of you and seeing the magic our network is making all across the province!

See you all soon on zoom, 

Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator