Episode 17: End the Stigma - Mental Health Awareness

*The following episode contains subject matter pertaining to mental health. These topics may be sensitive in nature and could be triggering to some listeners. This episode is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911.

**Please see the bottom of this post for a list of mental health services in the Toronto, Canada area. All of these come recommended by the professionals involved in this episode.

World Mental Health Awareness Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and talking about what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for everyone. 

The topic of “care” was the inspiration for this episode. The original idea was drawn from our own struggles, as teachers, in helping our students, and feelings of frustration in not knowing what our school offered in terms of help - and how the school could actually help our students. Then, we realized that probably many teachers might be in the same position. Research for this podcast has helped us immensely, and we hope teachers and institutes will find it helpful.

The episode’s focus is on post-secondary and international study, where Mental Health rates among university and college students are on the rise in Canada. Issues of Mental Health can be even tougher in a new country, in a new language, in a new culture. International students, refugees, and other newcomers experience mental health as anyone else would, perhaps moreso, with factors like stigma, shame, and survivor’s guilt lingering. '

For those of us in education, the question remains: what can we do?

There are three segments to the show to help unpack all of these questions.

  • In segment 1, we talk to three international students in Canada to hear their perspective on mental health.

  • In segment 2, Natalie Roach, the mental health coordinator for Toronto’s Ryerson University joins us to talk about strategies instructors and programs can implement.

  • In the final segment, we talk to Sakeena Mihar, one of the co-founders for startup Savyn Tech - an app designed to help newcomers and refugees with PTSD.

Here, we want to advocate listening, learning, raising awareness, and continuing the discussion and ending the stigma, not only on World Mental Health Awareness Day, but every day.

About the professionals involved with today’s episode:

Natalie Roach:

Natalie Roach is a wellness and mental health expert who is currently Ryerson University’s Mental Health Coordinator. She leads campus-wide initiatives on how to best serve students, staff, and faculty from a mental health and wellbeing perspective. She has been featured in national and Toronto conferences as a host, speaker, and moderator and delivers talks on topics such as the “intersection of mental health and inclusion” and “promoting mental health through policy change.” 

Sakeena Mihar:

Sakeena is one of the founders of Savyn Tech, an online platform designed to help those with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in multiple languages. Savyn Tech uses clinically proven techniques to overcome and reduce trauma, both with panic attacks and long-term healing. 

Sakeena has PTSD and is an advocate for mental health awareness, dialogue, and providing assistance to those who need it.

 Contact Sakeena: sakeena@gmail.com

 Contact Savyntech: savyn.tech@gmail.com

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Mental Health Services in the Greater Toronto Area. Please reach out or visit any one of them if you feel it is best for you or someone you know.

CAMH - The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

Visit their Programs & Services page here.

Ryerson Mental Health & Well-being Services 

This website has information for all of us: students, staff and faculty, as well as those interested in supporting us. It offers resources so that you can get support for yourself or others. The resources on this website are available on-campus, in our communities or online, so you can access the support you need, in the way you need.

Women’s Health in Women’s Hands

The Mandate of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands (WHIWH) Community Health Centre is to provide primary healthcare to racialized women from the African, Black, Caribbean, Latin American and South Asian communities in Toronto and surrounding municipalities. They are committed to working from an inclusive feminist, pro-choice, anti-racist, anti-oppression, and multilingual participatory framework in addressing the issue of access to healthcare for our mandated priority populations encompassing age, gender, gender identity, race, class, violence, sexual orientation, religion, culture, language, disability, immigration status and socio-economic circumstances.

YMCA New Immigrant Services

The YMCA's wide range of services gives immigrants all the help and support they need to begin their new lives. Our services include how to learn or improve English and French, information sessions about their new community and settlement advice and assistance, all at no cost.

Talk Space

Talkspace is an online therapy platform where anyone can get therapy without traveling to an office. Talkspace has many therapists that can help individuals with depression, anxiety, the challenges of being part of the LGBT Community or a Veteran, and more. They have the ability to understand what people are going through and to help make positive changes in your life.

Women’s College Hospital

Women’s College Hospital is now a leader in health for women, health equity and health system solutions – a hospital designed to keep people out of hospital. They are developing ground-breaking innovations that address the most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs. WCH advocates for health equity because “we know that a healthy society requires a level playing field where everyone has access to timely, high quality, efficient and compassionate care.”

Across Boundaries

Across Boundaries provides a dynamic range of mental health support and services and works within Anti-Racism/Anti-Black racism and Anti-Oppression frameworks. These frameworks address the negative impact of racism and discrimination on mental health and well-being. Rooted in up-to-date research and consistently active community engagement, their progressive strategies are implemented by their capable staff who are committed to improving the quality of mental health and addiction care for *racialized people.

The 519 Community Centre

The 519 is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S communities. A City of Toronto agency with an innovative model of Service, Space and Leadership, they strive to make a real difference in people’s lives, while working to promote inclusion, understanding and respect.

Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic 

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a specialized clinic for women experiencing violence, established in the memory of Barbra Schlifer – an idealistic young lawyer whose life was cut short by violence on the night of her call to the bar of Ontario on April 11, 1980. In her memory, the Clinic assists approximately 4,000 women a year to build lives free from violence through counselling, legal representation and language interpretation. The clinic amplifies "women’s voices, and cultivate their skills and resilience. Together with our donors and volunteers, “we are active in changing the conditions that threaten women’s safety, dignity and equality.”

Hong Fook Mental Health Organization 

Hong Fook, meaning “Health” and “Felicity” in Chinese, has been serving the Asian communities in the Greater Toronto Area since 1982. We strive to address the mental health concerns of the Cambodian, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean and Vietnamese communities. Hong Fook provides a continuum of integrated primary care and mental health services covering the spectrum from “promoting wellness” to “managing illness” in Asian communities, including:

  • Clinical Service – Intake, Case Management, Support Within Housing, Group Psychotherapy, and partnership with Asian Community Psychiatric Clinic and HF Connecting Health Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic

  • Integrated Recovery Program

  • Family Support Program

  • Prevention and Promotion Program

  • Youth and Family Program

  • Training Program – Journey to Promote Mental Health training for staff serving immigrants and refugees, Mental Health First Aid Training, Cultural Competency Training and Workplace Wellness Training

Andrew Woodbury