I saw a meme recently that caught my eye. It read: behind every strong person is a story that gave them no other choice. I love that. It speaks to me on so many levels but mostly on the level of mental health. That was our family eight years ago when our then 15-year-old child was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Mental Illness is NOT a choice

So began a story of mental health in our family that has been at times heartbreaking and frightening but also inspiring. In the arena where we had no choice – mental illness is NOT a choice – we made the empowering choice to get involved in the journey and learn all we could.

That’s one of the reasons why when our family was invited to participate in an event called Mental Health Empowerment Day in 2017, we jumped at the chance. Now known as MHED, the annual event was the creation of Leanne Matlow, a good friend, educator and cognitive behavioural therapy counsellor who works primarily with children with anxiety.

It was Leanne’s dream to create a day where people came together to talk about mental health, to feel connected, and to work to eradicate stigma. Since that first event, held on a Sunday morning in Toronto in a local high school, MHED has grown and I remain involved in its mission. Over the years, we have created a body of work for which we are proud and that we believe has made a difference. Many experts have taught us, many people have shared their experiences.

This year we are showcasing the work of MindUP / The Goldie Hawn Foundation. 

www.mindup.org is a not-for-profit organization founded by the Goldie Hawn Foundation to help children develop the knowledge and tools they need to strive in school and life. The evidence-based MindUP program was developed by a team of experts grounded upon four scientific pillars: neuroscience, mindful awareness, social-emotional learning (SEL) and positive psychology.

The event will feature keynote speaker, Dr. Jean M. Clinton, BMus, MD, FRCP(C), Clinical Professor McMaster University, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences who will explain the science behind MindUP and their platform. Every participant at the in-person event will receive a year-long membership to the MindUP for Life online platform and will be introduced to simple MindUP skills led by the Head of Education for MindUP, Dido Balla.

It will be held on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at the Eglinton Grand Theatre, 400 Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto at 7:30 p.m. This year’s event is presented by www.projectgiveback.com.  Admission is $20 and registration is required at www.mhed.ca

You have your own story.

I think back to the early days of our journey and wish that I had known about MindUP. Those were the days when I often sat at my kitchen table wondering what to do and feeling alone. Maybe as you read these words you can relate; many families have their own story.

Let’s work to empower each other.

Mental Health Empowerment Day is an organization who works to empower all those who live and work with children and youth who are dealing with mental health issues. The goal of MHED is to provide concrete tools for participants in our homes, schools, community institutions and youth programs who live and work daily with this population. www.mhed.ca

Created in 2008, Project Give Back encourages the development of meaningful relationships between students and their
communities through their work with a charity of their choosing. Students learn to develop empathy, build character and become
community-minded and global citizens who put kindness out into the world. www.projectgiveback.com

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Written by Michele Viner

Michele Viner, Vice Chair of Mental Health Empowerment Day, is a parent who has lived experience with mental health issues and who has become an advocate. She is also a writer who has written for publications such as Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Today’s Parent. Currently she is writing about the topic of mental health and wellness through her blog, A Little Wordy on Substack, and through her book, A Few Words About Mental Health. She lends her expertise to Mental Health Empowerment Day to help spread the word, to educate and to work to eradicate stigma.

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