Through conversation and programming, our CSI Community Animator, Marcus Huynh, has spent the last year invested in the health and wellbeing of our community. For Mental Health Week, he wanted to share a few words about what this experience has taught him, what he hopes for our community, and how he is here to support.
We’ve seen the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health in our personal and professional lives. The way we work and live has changed. The way we lead has changed. The way we socialize and connect with loved ones has changed. The way our kids learn at school has changed. What we see in the media has changed. We see the discrimination and racial inequities that continue to be illuminated and how the pandemic have disproportionally impacted marginalized communities.
As social changemakers, we place a lot of responsibility on ourselves to do more and respond more urgently during moments of crisis. At CSI we say, “It’s up to us.” And while that remains true, it’s important to acknowledge that working amid uncertainty, grief, loss, and isolation whilst balancing the needs of relationships, home, and financial pressures affects our mental and emotional capacity and can take a significant toll on the wellbeing of our community. Burnout, and it’s more conversational counterpart, screen fatigue, are real. If you’re feeling exhausted, you’re not alone. We hear you.
So, as Mental Health Week comes to a close, it’s a great reminder to check in, especially given the current state of the world – and to acknowledge the work doesn’t stop once the week ends. I am writing this as a call to our community to continue to check in, reflect on where we’ve been and to offer an open door for anyone who needs an ear. We all need to listen, keep the conversation going, and break down the stigma surrounding mental health, together. The more we can inject these conversations into our lives and our work, the better, as it affects all aspects of our lives!
It’s essential for us as changemakers to reflect on community health as we work together to build the Next Economy. It’s also “up to us” to ask ourselves and those around us: How are you really doing? What’s causing you stress? What support do you need? As a community, where does our mental health fit into our work? And what is your role?
As CSI Spadina’s Community Animator, my work involves building and connecting the community. These simple questions help me check in and insert more opportunities for dialogue to better understand what’s beneath the surface. The most important part of my work is checking in on the community, meeting them where they’re at, and listening to the pulse of the community’s health.
In March, as we entered one year of the pandemic and the anniversary of CSI first closing its spaces, there was an opportunity to pause and reflect. We made various CSI programs and touch points available to highlight the importance of mental health and to engage CSI community members along different intersections of their wellbeing journey. We have such incredible members working in mental health and emotional wellbeing and we wanted to broadcast and bridge their work with the needs of our community! We collaborated with CSI members, like Pedro Afif (Psychotherapist) and Ronit Jinich (Mindfulness Without Borders), to provide workshops on Psychoeducation to help us understand how stress shows up and how we are responding to our mental health during this time. We offered various modalities and different ways to engage, particularly since everyone is at a different place in their own mental health journey.
Often mental health and emotional wellbeing support comes in less direct forms: during the past year, we also hosted community virtual gatherings known as our “Toasts”, which were an opportunity for our members to simply show up wherever they were at, even as the world was changing around us, connect with some friendly virtual smiles and faces, and cheers to each other. For me, these were some of the most memorable and impactful moments of reconnecting with our community virtually. They provided the opportunity to witness connection and remind ourselves that we are all human, that we are in this together, that there is support and there is hope.
Over the last year and a half, I’m reminded that mental health care is different for everyone. Some people may be looking for someone to talk to or seeking resources, others may be navigating different ways of coping, or simply noticing the symptoms that show up from stress and anxiety. Whether it’s having someone to share challenges with, attending a session or conversation to gain insights, reading an article, or asking for help, people need to seek out and be offered support that suits their needs, including counselling or therapy. On that note, mental health is a two-way street, and we all have a role! Sometimes a loved one will come to us for support, and sometimes we’re the ones who need support.
Let’s continue to have these conversations, get real, and provide each other (and ourselves) the support we need as a community.
I’ll start: How are you, really?
And while we continue the conversation, here is a list of government funded resources and services in Ontario, including telephone counselling, internet-based CBT, online guided programs, local community services and learning resources:
- Ontario Government Resources, Services & Programs on Mental Health & Crisis Support
- Ontario Government Resources for Mental Health in the Workplace
- Mental Health Commission of Canada Resources
- Wellness Together (telephone & text counselling support)
- Mind Beacon (guided CBT programs for Ontario residents)
- Morneau Shepell (internet-based CBT)
- Bounce Back (skill-building program to manage stress, anxiety and mild depression)
- ConnexOntario (services for mental illness & substance/alcohol use)
- Togetherall (online peer-to-peer support service to manage anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues)