CMHA Lethbridge is partnering with The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to launch a national initiative to help schools and communities reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Background
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (“MHCC”) launched a national initiative to help schools and communities reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. This initiative centers on: (i) contact-based education, in which trained speakers with lived experiences of mental illness (who have recovered or are successfully managing their illnesses) share personal stories related to their illnesses in a manner which emphasizes hope and recovery; (ii) regional youth anti-stigma summits which gather students and teachers from various schools for an energetic day of education and dialogue about mental illness, stigma and the importance of young people seeking help (a “Summit”); and (iii) implementation of post-summit school-based activities, in which students (with support and consent from a teacher (or teachers) and/or school administrative personnel) conceptualize and execute small creative projects which aim to educate and inform their peers about stigma and its impacts (collectively, the “Youth Anti-Stigma Initiative”).
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Lethbridge Region (CMHA) was one of three sites in Alberta chosen to work with the MHCC, to roll out the Initiative in Alberta, CMHA Edmonton and Calgary the other two locations.
Our organization, and the volunteer Leadership Steering Committee tasked with designing, implementing, evaluating and developing a sustainability framework for the initiative, are committed to the following principles: our community is made stronger through working together and therefore, partnerships will be at the core of our work; we build sustainability through the support and enhancement of existing resources and services so we are committed to not creating new or duplicating existing to deliver the initiative; the project must be youth and parent driven and school and community supported to be sustainable.
Our Steering Committee is comprised of recognized community leaders in Lethbridge, including membership from the Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health, City of Lethbridge Community and Social Development, City of Lethbridge Youth Advisory Committee, CMHA Board, a prominent media figure known for her work with the community, Youth Consultant, and the YWCA.
Supporting the goals of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, our project consists of the following deliverables:
- Provision of ongoing training opportunities for youth with lived experience of mental illness to develop skills to share their experiences through a “contact-based education” model. Contact-based education is a best practice model that provides opportunities for interactions between those with lived experience and those who might hold stigmatizing attitudes in naturally occurring environments such as the classroom. Ongoing training opportunities for youth will be facilitated through an evidence based training program which has been designed and developed by the MHCC.
- Coordination and facilitation of youth anti-stigma summits in partnership with schools and community youth serving agencies to provide education and open dialogue discussions on topics around stigma and mental health and wellness.
- Coordination and facilitation of post-summit school-based activities that are meaningful and peer driven and reduce the stigma of mental illness in the school environment.
- A youth anti-stigma, strategic sustainability plan which will ensure continued support for a meaningful, effective and evidence based community anti-stigma program which includes: an endowment fund (Youth Dream Fund) to ensure the continuation of the project and CMHA’s commitment to support youth leaders in their planning and delivery of projects in their schools.
What We Will Use Our “Youth Dream Fund” For
There will be four separate projects supported through this endowment fund.
The fund will support training for youth who have experienced mental illness to provide them with skills to talk openly about their challenges and recovery.
The fund will help support Youth Anti-Stigma Summits, which will gather youth from schools throughout Lethbridge and area, to have an open and honest dialogue about mental illness and stigma and to create their own initiatives to eradicate stigma in their schools and communities.
The fund will help to support school based, peer driven initiatives which utilize the “contact based education” model within their schools to help educate and promote anti-stigma campaigns and activities on an ongoing basis.
And finally, we will partner with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Encounters Canada to send leaders from our community to experience opportunities for developing their civic leadership skills, explore career options, and accomplish this through their peers from across Canada. Theme weeks at Encounters include: Arts and Culture, Canada Remembers, Ecology and the Environment, International Affairs, Journalism and Communications, Law, Medicine and Health, Mental Health and Wellness, Politics in Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Science and Technology. More information on the mission on this organization is attached to this proposal or can be accessed at,(https://www.ewc-rdc.ca/en/our_youth_program/index.html).