End ‘two-tier’ mental health care system, Michael Kirby urges

This article was posted in the Ottawa Citizen on February 10, 2016 by Blair Crawford. It discusses the viewpoints of a retired senator Michael Kirby, who is the founding chair for Partners for Mental Health and a former chairman of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Kirby talks about the great lack of mental health services for youth in Canada.

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Michael Kirby

“Services for children and youth are the worst part of the mental health system. The scarcity of services and trained personnel are worse in youth than in any other part.”

Recently, there has been an increase in demand for mental health services, but with little government response. For instance, the Citizen had reported a recent case of a “suicidal 17-year-old girl who spent eight nights at the Queensway Carleton Hospital without ever getting a bed in the hospital’s 25-bed mental health unit where she could receive treatment.” Depositphotos_6270264_XS.jpg

Not only is it hard just to reach out to these services, mental healthcare is also very expensive. For instance, therapy is not funded by public health care and often costs around $125 or $150 per hour. Therefore, only the few families who can afford it will have access to this private care. Kirby refers to this as “the ultimate example of two-tier medicine”.

He says: “As a Canadian I find that offensive. Why should the child sitting next to my grandchild in school not get help because their parents or grandparents can’t afford it? That’s not the Canadian way.”

Overall, it has become very evident that many children and youth are not being provided with the mental health care services they need. Mental illnesses often start out as minor issues, and can worsen overtime if left untreated.

“The hospital situation and the emergency room situations obviously need to be improved, but a big focus needs to be on getting to kids who get problems before they are so serious that they need to go to a hospital or an emergency room.”

I have chosen to talk about this article because it is a topic which is of much personal concern to me. Last year, my younger sister, at only 9 years old, began showing several symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). As soon as we noticed these symptoms, we wanted to get help right away. We found out that in order to see or talk to a psychiatrist, we had to first get a referral from our family doctor. Our family doctor was on leave at the time however, so we could not turn to her. We then tried to get a referral from a doctor at a walk-in clinic instead.

What was very frustrating was that the people at the office were not listening to us when we were insisting that this referral was of high priority and must be sent as soon as possible. They were being very unclear about when the referral would actually get sent out, saying things like “a couple of days, weeks” which was very unsettling for us. After this process, we had to wait a matter of months to actually manage to get an appointment. All the while, my sister’s symptoms were getting worse and worse. Every time she had an ‘attack’ we kept having to depend on the children’s mental health crisis line. However, how much help can they possibly give us, when they have never met her and do not know her history, etc.? It became a bother to explain the whole situation to them every time we called (since a different person was on the line each time).

Her OCD got to a point where she was unable to go to school anymore because of her fears and anxieties. Yet, the school was reluctant to help us because we had no official diagnosis! How frustrating is that?! There was nowhere to turn, and all because of the lack of fast mental health care services for children. It wasn’t until her OCD got to such a bad point that it was stopping her from being able to function in daily life that we got an appointment. When I think back, I still wonder about how much easier my sister’s recovery would have been if only she had gotten access to her psychiatrist earlier. Ever since then, this is an issue that has troubled me greatly.

I agree with all the claims that Michael Kirby has made and I am hoping to see changes in the system as soon as possible. Why is it so hard for children and youth to get the help they need? Why is this demand being ignored?

This article relates greatly to last week’s topic of mental health in our course. f3766f876d143ea85bd35fb7b63cabaf731c5493We have learned from the reading ‘The Mental Health Crisis on Campus’, that the stigma regarding mental health has decreased, and that mental health awareness is continuously increasing.

I have noticed the greater awareness of mental health issues as well. Many schools are taking the initiative to spread awareness about mental illnesses for youth. There is also Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk campaign, which encourages people to be able to talk about mental health issues. Kirby comments on this as well, and links it to the past increase in awareness about breast cancer. He says:

“It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the Globe and Mail could even use the word ‘breast’ in the paper. You can’t talk about breast cancer if you can’t use the word breast. Today, not one of my grandkids over the age of 10 doesn’t know what the pink ribbon means. And what’d that do? It increased the public demand for breast cancer services and the government responded. The problem is that the public demand for mental health services has increased but governments have not responded.”

We cannot just improve in one way and take no action to support it. All we get from that is more people who are aware of their mental illness but do not have the access to the health care they need.

Yes awareness has increased, and this is great! I am so glad we are moving forward with this. However, the next step forward must be taken as well in order for us to solve this issue. As Joel Barker said “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

There are so many heartbreaking cases where the mental health care system has failed individuals. Several are mentioned in this recent article: “I had to fight for her life because no one else would‘: Readers share their experiences with mental health care system”. I was absolutely shocked at how many horrible cases there were. 

How many more children have to be hurt in order for us to see real change?

 


 

Source link here!

The New Soup Kitchen where you can dine with dignity!

This article was posted on Huffingtonpost.com on March 4th, 2016 by Elyse Wanshel. It discusses a new type of soup kitchen that has opened up in Kansas City, Missouri. It is called Kansas City Community Kitchen, which has been around for about 30 years but has recently, on February 5th, changed its entire look and feel. Its new design diverges from the traditional structure of soup kitchens. Instead of the regular set-up, it is designed to look like a real restaurant — with actual greeters, waiters and servers! Furthermore, the food that is served there also differs from what regular soup kitchens tend to serve. There are actual menus, with choices of several high-quality lunches such as these:

The menu was actually created by an executive chef, Michael Curry, who is the owner of the Kansas City restaurant called ‘Lil’ Bubba’!

Another great thing this place offers is the ‘Culinary Cornerstones Training Program’ which allows volunteers to take part in classes for 12 weeks, that teaches them cooking and financial skills.

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“We want to be the place that Kansas City restaurants call when they need good help in their kitchens. Everyone has a right to be nourished and sustained, and we’ll do that with both food and learning.” – Michael Curry

Reading this article put a smile on my face. It’s such a wonderful initiative and I wonder why no one has thought of it before! Soup kitchens have been around for years now, first emerging during the late 18th century. They rose in popularity during the Great Depression in the early 20th century. Since then, there have been many soup kitchens running to serve disadvantaged and homeless communities. It has always been a helpful and generous creation, and many have benefited from it. Kansas City Community Kitchen has taken something great, and made it even better!

What has usually looked like this:

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Has been turned into this:

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“[The homeless] are used to standing in line for food, for a bed — they stand in line to get in the door. See them smile today? This can change a man’s heart.” – Kenneth Cabean (Volunteer at the community kitchen)

This kind of initiative relates so well with our course on equity and diversity, and particularly next week’s topic on economic and social inequality. The goal of this is inclusion and equality for all. Why treat homeless individuals like “pitiful” homeless individuals? Why not treat them like members of our society, as deserving of respect and high quality service as the rest of us?

In our world, there is an unfortunately great divide between the rich and the poor. The system that creates this does so in a vicious cycle – as they say, “the rich get richer, and the poor stay poor”. While wealthy individuals are continuously given opportunities to succeed, poorer communities cannot afford such opportunities. Furthermore, homeless communities are often looked down upon.

However, if the poor are never treated like they are valuable members of society, how can they believe that they do matter — and that they can succeed? At the end of the day, it can all lead back to the self-fulfilling prophecy. This soup kitchen, while not ridding the problem of income inequality in the world, offers homeless communities with respect and ‘dignity’ — and this is a big step towards equality. This is the way change is created. You have to start small, and in incremental steps, great and real changes can happen.

Giving these kinds of equal benefits and opportunities is what needs to be done for disadvantaged and poor communities. For individuals who are often denied basic rights ranging from access to healthcare and education, to simply being treated with respect — this place is truly refreshing.

“It’s different. They’re treating me good, like they don’t know I’m homeless.” – Brian Oglesby, a homeless man who dined at Kansas City Community Kitchen

Maybe more soup kitchens – and perhaps other organizations – around the world can also follow in these footsteps. Let’s give everyone a chance to feel valued in our community! 🙂


Article link here!

Kansas Community Kitchen website here!

Field Placement: Day 4

My last day at the Welcome Centre was on March 4th. Today, I stayed from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM, thus completing 20.5 hours in total at the centre. When I walked in this morning, once again, I was greeted by the wonderful and friendly staff! I sure will miss working with these lovely people.

8:00 AM – 11:30 AM

I signed in with Mohsen, and he asked me to help out with the portables once more. With the overflowing number of donations that come in to the Welcome Centre, there is always more work to be done at the portable. I was feeling more motivated than usual today. Perhaps it was because of my experience with the Syrian visitor yesterday, and because today was my last day at this place. I wanted to make the most of this visit.

As always, I noticed an increase in donations from the last time I was here (Tuesday). There was a huge addition of toys and books in the room — and some really nice ones too! Furthermore, there was a great improvement that had been made in the organization of the room since last time. It is great to see that many of the volunteers have been working hard to keep this place looking its best. 🙂 Last time, with the new addition of hundreds of backpacks, there was practically no more space to keep all of them in neat rows. I saw that the layout had been reorganized. The backpacks were now neatly stacked on the ledge and some chairs at the back of the room. Someone had even taken the time to separate the bags based on what gender and what age the bags are generally meant for. I continued what the other volunteers had started, and put out more of the backpacks on display.

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I worked in the portable with two other volunteers for a total of three and a half hours today. I think we got quite a lot accomplished. 🙂

11:30 AM – 12:20 PM

At around 11:30 AM, we all went back inside the main office. For almost an hour, we had to do some observation. Today seemed to be a slower, less busy day than usual. This was a little unexpected, as it was actually very nice out today yet, the place was much more packed on Tuesday – the day of the impending snowstorm.

Within this hour, two generous individuals came in to the office with bags full of donations in their cars! It was my job to direct them to the portables and help them take the things inside. 🙂

During this time, I saw a family come in and ask the staff some questions. One of the members of the family, a young girl who had completed her undergraduate studies in her country, was wondering how she should go about continuing her education and starting her Master’s here. The staff worker with whom she was consulting, I noticed, was very informative as well as very friendly. She was trying hard to give her as many options as possible. She was also very encouraging and supportive. I really admire this working style and people skills that I have been observing during my time here! 🙂 I personally love working with people, and I hope that in the future I can work in a setting where I can always interact with people in this way!

12:20 PM – 1:00 PM

At around 12:20, me and another volunteer (who I really hit it off with!) were given the task of sorting out three different piles of forms and putting them into separate packages.

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We sat in the office, and talked about our other experiences with volunteering. I learned that she actually volunteers at the Welcome Centre weekly! Maybe I should consider doing something like that as well. She was also telling me about how she used to live outside of Ontario before, and that where she grew up, she was only ever surrounded by Caucasian people. That’s why when she moved to Mississauga just a couple years ago, she was surprised to see all the diversity! She seemed to really appreciate this multiculturalism, and that was one of the reasons she wanted to start volunteering more within this community.

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I have always lived in this multicultural community, so this has always just seemed like the norm to me. It is so strange to think about living anywhere away from this place! When it was 1:00PM, it was time for me to leave. I couldn’t believe that this was the last day of my placement here! The time went by so fast!

So, I said my goodbyes to all the friends and acquaintances I made, and headed out, thus completing a total of 20.5 hours at the Welcome Centre.


Overall, I think this was a great, new experience for me. I love new experiences, because that is how we make the most of life! I have done tutoring jobs, have volunteered in many daycares and school settings but I haven’t had the chance to work in an organization like the Welcome Centre until now. 🙂 I got to learn a lot more about working in social services and human resources. I also really liked that I got to work in a team. I love working with people, and I loved feeling like I was part of this team, even if it was only for a couple of days! Furthermore, I think that after this experience, I have become more aware of the great amount of services that are offered in the community that I have lived in all these years. There are so many resources for help and support available for individuals in this community which I don’t think I appreciated enough before. I am glad that this has allowed me to open my eyes to what I have missed out on. With this new knowledge, in the future, I may be able to direct people I meet to these services. 🙂 Overall, this placement has allowed me to broaden my experience within my community, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity!

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Goodbye for now, Welcome Centre!

Field Placement: Day 3

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The third day of my placement was on March 1st. This time I stayed from 8:00 AM to 1:30 PM. Right as I walked in the office, many of the staff members who I had gotten familiar with last time greeted me with smiles on their faces! I was very happy as it made me feel like I was a part of the team. 🙂

8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Today, it was really busy in the morning. There were several families waiting in the chairs, and the place was packed. Many people were waiting to meet with Mohsen, and I could see how well he was handling this busy line up.

When he got the chance to speak with me, as always, he handed me the keys and I was back in the storage portable. I guess you could say I’m starting to get really familiar with this place.

Another day, another set of bags full of donations to organize!

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Soon after I started my work there, a woman came by telling me that she had a van full of new backpacks (full of new supplies) to donate! I was so glad to hear it! The number of donations we are getting is unending.

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The new backpacks and supplies!

If you thought there were a lot of backpacks last week, then you should have seen how many there were now!

I chatted with the woman who came by for a little while about the donations. She asked me about the quality of the donations and I was happy to tell her that many of the things were either brand new or gently used condition. The woman told me she was very glad and relieved to hear this, as in the past, in other locations, she had seen some very poor quality and dirty things being donated. Hearing this, I was glad to see that the quality of the things people choose to donate have much improved!

With the huge number of bags that were just brought over, it was actually getting a little hard to fit everything in the room. I ended up having to leave some of the things inside the plastic bags. My thought at this time was “maybe it would be possible to open up another area for the donations?” I actually suggested this to Mohsen afterwards, and he told me that at this time there weren’t any other free areas available to them. However, many people would be coming in to look at the donations on Saturday. So hopefully, all the wonderful donations will be put to good use, and the place will be cleared up a little as well!

Today, there was something that happened in the portable that made this visit stand out in comparison to the others. Today I actually got to see for myself, the direct outcome of what I’ve been doing by organizing these donations for the past few days. What’s better than getting the chance to see the results of the hard work that’s being done? 🙂

A middle-aged Syrian woman came to visit the portable today to take some of the things. She could only speak Arabic, and I didn’t know how to understand or speak this language.  😦 However, I tried to welcome her and guide her the best that I could! We had to communicate through mostly non-verbal communication and with the few words in English she did know. I could direct her to the signs, which were written in both Arabic and English. She gestured things with her hands and I gestured back, and I am happy to say that I was able to effectively help her get everything she needed. I helped her pick out
snowpants for little boys – one thirteen year old and one nine year old. I also helped her find some nice shoes, school bags and school supplies. She seemed to be very pleased with a lot of the things she found. 🙂 I was so glad! When she was done picking all her things, I helped her carry all the things back to the centre. As we were walking back, she thanked me several times. Her gratitude made me feel very fulfilled about the work I had been doing.

After organizing all of the new arrivals a little more, I headed back to the centre.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

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The task I was given now was nearby the receptionist area. Working alongside Melanie, I had to do some filing. At the Welcome Centre, when families are registered, there is a lot of paperwork that must be done. The Welcome Centre helps the children of the families enrol in schools based on their assessments. After Melanie checked these files, she gave them to me to file in the drawers. I also had to make sure that all the files were in alphabetical order, as some of them had gotten a little messed around.

(A little side note: While I was doing this job, the radio was on. At one point, I heard a little story on the radio about a group of fifth-grade children, who all decided to start learning American Sign Language just to support and better communicate with their classmate who was deaf. It’s such a sweet story – and so fitting with our course! It put a smile on my face as I heard it. I actually went home, looked up the story and found an article on it! I wrote about it too, as a part of my newscrawl! Check it out here! )

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

At around 12:00, Vikram, a settlement worker at the Welcome Centre came in. I was to ‘job shadow’ him for today. I was very glad to have gotten the opportunity to do this! This would probably allow me to get a better grasp on the whole process the families go through at the Welcome Centre. I got a chance to speak with him about myself, the course I am in, and my future aspirations. He was very informative, helpful and friendly! I also had the opportunity to ask him any questions about the Welcome Centre. I got a whole debriefing of the process:
First, families who have recently immigrated register at the Welcome Centre. There is a list of forms they need to fill out. Then, the family is assessed by the settlement workers and the teachers so that the children of the family can begin their education in Peel. The assessments are done to figure out the family’s needs, immigration status, family background and any other necessary information. The children’s Math and English knowledge is also assessed to determine their skill level.

Families are also given connections to any resources and agencies that will help them with finding employment, volunteer opportunities, etc. Overall, the Welcome Centre aids in the process of registering children into school and finding connections to resources and opportunities in the community, making the transition to this society much easier for newcomers!

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There is a lot of helpful information posted on the bulletin boards!

Vikram was supposed to assess a family that was to come in today. However, the family ended up not coming in, and I was unable to see this process for myself. 😦 Instead, I helped Vikram out with some photocopying until it was lunch time.

Today was a fairly eventful day, and I enjoyed my time there – especially since I feel like I am already friends with a lot of the staff!

Hopefully, I will be able to see even more in my next visit!
So, until next time~

 

5th Graders Ditch Recess For Sign Language Club!

“It’s like they want to be like me.” – Rhemy Elsey

This article was posted on February 29, 2016 on Huffingtonpost.com. It discusses the wonderful initiative taken by several young students at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois. A student in a Grade 5 class, Rhemy Elsey is deaf, and primarily communicates through the use of sign language (ASL). Due to this, Rhemy must often depend on an interpreter to converse with others.

As reported by WMBD, this set up made it difficult for Rhemy to make friends at school, as students found it hard to directly communicate with him. This led to feelings of both social and emotional alienation within Rhemy.

“It can be really hard for [deaf kids] from a social and emotional standpoint to have an interpreter following them around all day long. It can feel somewhat isolating.”  – Arvin (Rhemy’s interpreter)

Due to such reasons, some of Rhemy’s classmates decided on their own to give up their recesses every Wednesday, in order to form and take part in an American Sign Language (ASL) club! In this club, the students learn how to communicate using ASL, thus making their conversations with Rhemy much more natural and enjoyable.

Furthermore, since these children are so young, learning languages is a natural skill for them. According to ABC news, the ASL club is working really well, and the children have already picked up many basic signs in conversational topics such as school, food, and clothing.

Reading this story made me feel very happy about today’s youth. The fact that such young children, at only ten years old, are willing to take such an initiative is inspiring! They are sacrificing their own free time to learn a whole new language, all to make their classmate feel more included. This is the kind of inclusive mindset that is necessary in all schools and classrooms. The formation of an ASL club not only helps the children communicate with their peer, it also opens them up to a whole new perspective. They are learning about people out of the “norm”. By taking such an action, these children have opened up the path to “broader perspectives”.

As Arvin states:

“It really gives them a perspective on this other culture within the U.S. that they previously weren’t aware [of], so they’re benefiting ginormously just in terms of learning about diversity and having a broader perspective on the world around them.”

A club that involves learning about differences in others is a perfect way to promote equity and diversity within school settings. With school being one of the main factors of socialization, it is so important that children be exposed to any differences they may encounter. As a result, children who are “different”, such as Rhemy who is deaf, will not feel the same kind of isolation anymore. They can feel as though their peers understand them, and can be friends with them. This kind of social integration is so important for young children. It builds confidence, social skills, and a positive self concept. This is why we should not only embrace diversity, we should also integrate it and understand it.

This article relates so well to our course on Equity and Diversity. What these kids have done, is not only adapt a more inclusive mindset, but they also went ahead and took real action — and that is what this course is all about. This actually reminded me of James Bank’s concept of the four levels of curriculum reform. Although this is not necessarily in the context of education curriculums, it is possible to relate it. This kind of initiative reminds me of Bank’s Decision Making/Social Action Approach. Not limiting themselves to awareness and acceptance, and actually taking initiative and action, is what these children are doing for Rhemy. It’s such a kind, thoughtful and enthusiastic leap that they have taken for their friend.

In a world where any difference has been feared and shunned throughout the years, it is so progressive that we now live in a society where children, without materialistic rewards or other incentives, are breaking away from what is generally expected of them in the education system to include a classmate who is ‘different’.

The best part about this article is that it was not the educators or teachers who started and encouraged this club, it was the students, the children. Only 10 years old. What lovely and brilliant young minds! These are the leaders of tomorrow, and that makes me look forward to a brighter future.

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Article from here!

way to break those gender roles!

A new line of “Lego City” toys — the same one that will include the figurine of a child in a wheelchair — is also introducing, for the first time ever, a “hipster stay-at-home dad dressed in plaid with his Lego wife dressed in a professional attire“!

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What an excellent step to take in breaking the cycle of gender role socialization in children. 🙂

President of LEGO Systems, Soren Torp Laursen comments:

“We need to stay in tune with the world around us. We aren’t responding to demand from anyone. We are trying to portray the world around us and listen to our consumer base.”

A job well done, Lego!

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– Source link here!

Wellness Recovery Action Plan offers alternative to McGill’s Mental Health Services

This article was posted on The McGill Tribune on February 28th, 2016 by William Pang. It discusses the fairly recent increase in the McGill mental health services and the actions that were taken by McGill university in response to this increase. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan or WRAP, which was founded 18 years ago in Vermont, is a program that works to aid individuals who suffer from any mental health issues. This program was initiated in McGill during Fall of 2015.

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This program allows students to take part in six sessions, meeting once a week for about two hours. Emily Yung, McGill’s Mental Health Education Coordinator says that in these sessions, students are taught “a set of key concepts to help build a foundation for recovery” and “a ‘wellness toolbox’ to combat symptoms”. A very open and sharing environment is encouraged. Students are allowed to collaborate with one another in order to find out what will work best for their problems. Group therapy, as opposed to one-on-one talks, is encouraged in this program.

Rather than focusing on those with serious and more prominent mental health issues, this program is designed towards those who have mild to moderate mental illnesses. It is specifically targeted to helping deal with “day-to-day challenges” such as stress and anxiety due to schoolwork, career choices, etc. This allows those who are going through difficult times, but not with any diagnosed mental illness, to have some source of guidance. Another aspect of WRAP that sets it apart from McGill’s Mental Health Services, is its ‘transdiagnostic approach’ – meaning that rather than focusing on one specific mental illness, it tries to help with a whole spectrum of mental illnesses. Therefore, WRAP works as a great addition and alternative to Mcgill’s Mental Health Services (MMHS).

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A PhD student, Julia Tischer, has said this about her experience with WRAP:

“I had this wonderful bonding experience with other people who have been going through difficult situations, many related to stress in school. So I didn’t feel alone.”

This article stood out to me, because I really liked how McGill’s has taken the initiative to add a program like WRAP to their already existing mental health services. This allows students the opportunity to choose which service will meet their needs in a more suitable way. After all, different things work for different people, and for different issues.

Furthermore, the whole time I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but think about how a close friend of mine, who had dealt with a great amount of anxiety and stress since entering university, could have benefited from this program. As I read about the services WRAP offers, I felt as though those were the types of skills and environments that would have worked really well for my friend. Knowing that others are going through the same kinds of difficulties as yourself is comforting, because you no longer feel alone with your problems. Furthermore, I really liked the idea of helping students develop a wellness toolbox’. To create a wellness toolbox, this is what is done:

A list is created of things you have done in the past, or could do, to help yourself stay well, and things you could do to help yourself feel better when you are not doing well. You will use these “tools” to develop your own WRAP. (Retrieved from the official website: mentalhealthrecovery.com)

Having such an organized plan is important when dealing with stressful situations. It can help you feel like there is a plan that you can depend on. Things like this can work very well for self-help, as I have discovered from my own experiences in helping my friend.

Another point to make is that this article directly relates to this week’s reading The Mental Health Crisis on Campus by Kate Lunau. This reading talked about the increase in the number of students in need of mental health care within several universities. It talks about how in today’s society “students are having difficulty coping with the rapidly changing world around them, a world where they can’t unplug, can’t relax, and believe they must stay at the top of their class, no matter what.” The program that McGill has incorporated into their system directly responds to this issue! After reading this article, and when considering the huge number of stressed out university students discussed in the reading, WRAP seems like a great idea! I believe that more universities should try to add this program to their already existing mental health services as well! 🙂 This sounds like a great way to go about solving this issue of stress and anxiety. WRAP can help students with minor issues combat their symptoms before it worsens. Maybe this way, the heartbreaking suicides that were discussed in Lunau’s article can be prevented. No one wants to see more young students become so overwhelmed with school that it turns into something as drastic as suicide.


– Article link here!

– More information on the The Wellness Recovery Action Plan program here!

Field Placement: Day 2

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The second day of my placement was on Friday, February 26th. This time I stayed there for almost a full day — from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM (the centre usually runs from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM). Therefore, I got to familiarize myself a little more with the place. After this day, I feel as though I have gotten to know how things work around the centre more, and I feel much more comfortable in the environment than I did on my first visit.

I was hoping that for this visit, I would be assigned to a task that would be more engaging and involved with the operations at the Welcome Centre. I really wanted to get a chance to meet and and interact with some of the families there. 🙂

However, after signing in and meeting with Mohsen Mahmoud (the supervisor), I was once again handed the keys to the portable, and given the same task (to organize and sort out all the donations for the Syrian refugees).

Well, I guess we just got to make the best of what we get, right?

8:00AM – 12:00PM

So it was time to get down to business!

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It had been 3 days since my first visit to the portable, so I was pleased to see that there were even more donations than there were on Monday! Our community’s generous spirit is truly inspiring. 🙂 Seeing this, I felt more motivated to get all these donations organized the best that I could.

There were so many more new backpacks full of new supplies this time –

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I ended up staying in the portable for a whole 4 hours. I was there from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. We made a lot of progress today!

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With the increase in donations, it was getting harder and harder to manage the piles. I tried my best to refold some of the clothes in order to keep them looking neat and organized, so that it would be convenient for those who would be looking through these piles. 🙂

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Although it wasn’t what I initially had in mind, I was glad to be a part of this operation.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

At 12:00 PM, I went back to the main office and spoke to Mohsen, in hopes that there was more work that I could assist with. At first, he told me that I could do some observation. I sat in the main office, and saw as multiple families of all different races came in. I was in midst of such diversity — I noticed many unique cultural elements in the attire of the individuals coming by, and heard each of them speak interesting international languages. While sitting there, I got to see a little bit of how each of the families were taken in and talked to by the staff, and were given the assistance and information they needed. I also got a glimpse of the great collaborative spirit at the Welcome Centre. All of the staff worked eagerly with the families and with each other. This was a great experience as I now have a little bit more knowledge about the services provided at the Welcome Centre. It kind of made me wonder about some of my family back home in Bangladesh. We had often insisted that my Grandmother would come to Canada and live with us. However, my Grandmother was always reluctant to do so, because Bangladesh is a country she is very comfortable in and the place she’s always called home. However, if circumstances become more difficult in Bangladesh, maybe my Grandmother could really benefit from a centre such as this one. Dealing with culture shock and her adjustment to Canada would be made much easier with the help of the Peel Welcome Centre. 🙂

One of the highlights of my day was something that happened while I was in the office. A child from a Syrian family, probably about the age of 3 or 4, came up to me, and starting showing me some crayons he was playing with. He had such an energetic and bright little spirit. He was also very talkative! He was telling me so many things – however, all of it was in Arabic! Unfortunately, I do not know how to understand nor speak the language, so I did not know what he was saying! 😦 Nonetheless, what I did understand, was the happiness and innocence in his voice. At that moment, I felt so grateful that such a young child like him would not have to face the horrors and dangers due to the injustice that had been going on around him in his old country. He will get to keep that bright light and spirit that I saw in him today. 🙂

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1:00 PM – 1:40 PM

At around 1:00 PM, the staff was taking a little break, and during this time …

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The staff was holding a little potluck goodbye party for one of the staff members, Huda, as it was her last day working there. To my surprise, the staff was nice enough to actually invite me to be a part of the little potluck lunch as well! 🙂 The food was so tasty, I’m actually still thinking about and craving one of the appetizer dishes they had! To keep things in theme, it was so wonderful that their food selection consisted of dishes originating from several different cultures. They had a selection of Middle Eastern, Indian and Greek foods. (Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the actual names of all the dishes were!)

During this break, I became much more familiar with the staff and learned more about their personal lives. They were talking about some of their parenting experiences and their children’s experiences in school (which I won’t talk about in detail due to confidentiality!). Some of the things they were saying, I could relate to due to my role as an older sibling and secondary parental figure to my fourteen-year-old and ten-year-old sisters. The staff members were also interested in what I was doing, and wanted to hear more about my program and my future plans.

(Interesting little tidbit: One of the women working there actually told me that I looked like her daughter! She even showed me a picture of her daughter – and yes, she did actually look very similar to me!)

1:40 pm – 3:00 pm

After this little break, I was given the task to organize some flyers into their respective categories in the office. I also had to throw out any irrelevant or outdated flyers and books that happened to still be on the shelves.

I was also asked to photocopy any of the resources that they were running low on.

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While I was doing this, I came to know of many resources, organizations, and events that the government provides for those who may have recently immigrated to Canada. I was unaware that there were actually so many different options available here in Canada. There were services that helped with networking, childcare, education, getting jobs, volunteering, learning the English language, and so on! Furthermore, they also offered these resources and even entire booklets in different languages so that it would be convenient for individuals of different backgrounds.

As time went by, I noticed that the Welcome Centre seems much quieter in the late afternoons than the busy mornings when families were going in and out constantly.


On my first visit, since I only spent my time in the portables, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the way the Welcome Centre runs on a daily basis. I am truly glad that I got the chance to do so today! 🙂 Overall, I am seeing more and more that it really is a great place, with many friendly, hardworking and helpful staff. A welcoming environment indeed! 🙂