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Jan 22, 2016
Oakdale Community Centre


Brain cloud


ACT! Highlights  – Oakdale Community Centre (Toronto)

100% of students at our inaugural ACT! (Action, Commitment, Talking) event reported that they would attend another Healthy Minds Canada event and that they would recommend ACT! to a friend!

(more survey results below)

Event Overview

On Friday January 22nd, Healthy Minds Canada hosted our inaugural ACT! event at Toronto’s Oakdale Community Centre in the Jane/Finch area for students in grades 6-8. At registration, students filled out a pre-survey and received a handout that would give them a general overview of some common mental illnesses and links to local resources.

The day kicked off with a motivating speech from Eleanor Herschorn, a volunteer from Youth Speak who spoke about her lived experience with mental illness.

Then facilitator Sarah Lindsay (Healthy Minds Blogger and young adult with bipolar disorder) led a 30-minute workshop on resilience. The workshop began with a short video and included two activities. “Coping Cards” taught students about the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms – each student was given a selection of cards from a deck, each with a coping skill on it. Students had to determine whether the skills they had in their hand were healthy or unhealthy for different situations. “Plan B” taught students about the value of flexible thinking and that plan B can be just as good as plan A. Students were again given different scenarios and then came up with “backup plans” as a group.

chelsea mental health in media2 Screen Shot incl

After this workshop, Chelsea Ricchio (young adult living with depression and social anxiety and HMC’s Communications Manager) led another 30-minute workshop on empathy. According to post-survey results, this was everyone’s favourite workshop of the day, likely due to the entertaining and interactive Talk Show Game the students played. After another short video and discussion, students got to show off their active imaginations to create a scenario of their own in which there was a conflict to be solved. Three students were chosen to act out different roles in the scenario as “talk show guests” while the facilitator played the role of “host”. Each student’s goal was to express their own perspective on the scenario clearly while also trying to understand the other guests’ perspectives.

Event Planner and HMC Volunteer Marianne Henderson created a scavenger hunt around the grounds of the community centre to give the students some physical activity to break up their day. Incorporating both indoor and outdoor locations, each clue in the hunt gave students a fact about mental illness. According to survey results, this was unanimously the favourite activity of the day.


A nutritious, balanced, and delicious (!) homemade lunch was generously provided by Oakdale Community Centre.

After lunch, Chelsea Ricchio led a 45-minute media-based workshop called “What’s Wrong With This Picture?: Mental Health in Media”. Students watched 3 different video clips from TV shows and movies and were tasked with figuring out the problems with how mental illness was portrayed in each video.

The day ended with an expert panel featuring Toronto Clinical Youth Outreach Worker, Keith Cunningham, MS CMHC, and Paul Nguyen, Founder of Jane-Finch.com (and recent Governor General Award recipient), as well as facilitators Chelsea Ricchio and Sarah Lindsay talking about their own lived experience. The panel was moderated by Eleanor Herschorn.

Also on hand throughout the day were volunteers Chidera Ukairo and Ashleigh Thomas, who filmed the day’s events, Nakeesa Kooshafar, ACT! Program Manager, and Karishma Mohammed, Social Media and Marketing volunteer.

Panel (2)

Complete Survey Results:

While our survey sample was small (due to a small attendance), students showed a clear improvement in their attitudes about mental illness by the end of the day.  Here are our findings:

  • 100% of students reported that they would attend another Healthy Minds Canada event and that they would recommend ACT! to a friend.
  • 100% of students said that they felt included, made new friends and did not feel uncomfortable or anxious.
  • 100% of students loved the videos that were selected for use in the workshops and felt that they added to their experience of the day
  • 100% of attendees say they will be more active in reaching out to friends and try to learn more about mental health
  • 66% say they would like to look into resources and treatment programs
  • 30% said mental illness might be affecting someone they know
  • 100% said they intended to tell a parent what they learned at the event
  • 0% have tried alcohol or drugs
  • 25% have harmed themselves
  • 50% report symptoms of depression – 50% say it is hard for them to find motivation to do anything or even get out of bed and 25% feel they have less energy than others
  • 25% have a hard time adjusting to change and have a hard time picking themselves up again
  • 25% report symptoms of anxiety – being uncomfortable in situations where they don’t know many people, and finding it difficult to participate in class or activities even when they want to
  • 25% have been called dramatic or emotional
  • 50% have witnessed violence or traumatic events

Interestingly, some survey results reveal some interesting contradictions:

100% of students would feel comfortable talking to a parent, doctor or teacher about mental health (adults) but only 66% felt comfortable talking to friends.

100% reported having a great circle of friends, but only 25% said that they can tell their friends anything including mental health.

Only 50% reported that they always talk to someone when they are having a difficult time and negative feelings.  None of the students say they are concerned about being viewed as weak or dramatic for expressing their feelings, but 25% would feel ashamed or embarrassed to see a counsellor.

Another interesting observation is that none of the students reported having tried alcohol or drugs, often identified as a problem area for kids of this age.

An open-ended response question in the post-survey reveals some difficulty with terminology – at future events it could be helpful to go over the informational handout with attendees at the beginning of the day. Students confused the term ‘mental health’ with ‘mental illness’, as evidenced by responses to the question “What was the main thing you learned today?” Responses included “cope with mental health” and “help someone with mental health” – everyone has mental health, only some people have mental illness. 

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