July 03

By Sean Meyer

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Heather Miko-Kelly remembers the days — and they’re not so long ago — when the wider public avoided conversations around mental health because they were often uncomfortable and offered no answers.

Today, however, she is excited about a much different world.

Heather is program manager for Mindyourmind, which provides an online platform for youth and young adults to access resources, supports and information about mental health.

Launched in 2004 and currently operated by ConnexOntario Health Services, Heather said over her 11 years with the organization she’s witnessed first-hand how things have changed.

“In this day and age, mental health is on everyone’s radar. We used to have to convince people mental health issues are important,” she said. “Even people working with you, not to mention the community at large, we’d have to convince them it was important to talk about these issues and I don’t see that as much now. We’re not convincing people, they know.”

Mindyourmind exists to do a number of different things.

While it offers a variety of online resources, another big part of the program is its co-creation model.

Over the years, this has evolved to include young people at the table in development of any initiative. Having them as true partners and co-creators, Heather said, is what will ensure the success of whatever objective is under development.

Kathryn Callahan is the Mindyourmind youth liaison and said having young people directly involved just makes sense.

“Having youth involved, it will actually be useful for them. It’s useful, but also there’s buy-in,”
she said. “Youth promoting resources to other youth is key and gets people excited, gets people interested in actually using the resources.”

While Kathryn’s job has her interacting directly with local youth, Justin Lui is back in the office, crunching the numbers.

Mindyourmind’s research and evaluation lead, Justin works to make sure the organization is meeting its goals of youth engagement and mental health awareness.

With those goals in mind, he explains there are many measures to utilize to see if Mindyourmind is remaining effective.

“Clicks is part of it; a lot of our program is online,” Justin said. “So, there are a lot of online metrics as to whether people are actually using these tools. Our metrics are encouraging for sure.”

Heather adds there is confidence in the growth of the program as there has been substantial increases in the platform’s social media channels — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — over the past few years.

There has also been increased use in not only Mindyourmind.ca, but other mental health resources like mytoolkit.ca, and BeSafe.ca, not to mention apps the platform and its partners are creating.

One of the better ways to achieve that outreach, Kathryn adds, has been moving into an office at Innovation Works.

A co-tenant since almost day one, she said the move into Innovation Works has led to unexpected advantages. Well-maintained and visually appealing, she explained the youth she regularly speaks with find Innovation Works to be “a nice environment to be in . . . and a good opportunity for young people to meet new people.”

Heather is quick to add there was another benefit too.

“It made sense for us to be here for the networking opportunities, the sharing, the collaborating . . . for us, being here has been really important,” she said. “Being here, meeting people . . . the after-hour events or workshops, different things that are happening is a perk for our staff. It just fits with our culture.”

For more information, visit https://mindyourmind.ca.


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