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Mental Health Empowerment Day

More about Mental Health Empowerment Day and what this cute little guy represents at

I (Aleef) and Shira (Director of SExT and mother of 13 kids) attended the UJA (United Jewish Appeal) Federation’s first ever Mental Health Empowerment Day on September 17th on a Sunday. Yes, Sunday morning at 9 am 🙂

I usually don't go to an event that forces me to wake up at 8am on a Sunday, but this event was important. It was about mental health. Something nobody talks about enough even though 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their life. The event featured three amazing speakers. First speaker was Ryan Holt. He talked about how one moment of courage opened up his life to thousands of others. He was just like any kid. Enjoying his life, reading memes and making cringe-worthy jokes, but one month it all changed. He became moody, sad, confused and depressed. He didn't know what was going on but he took a massive courageous step. He told everything to his mom and fortunately his mom was very supportive and sent Ryan to get some help. A lot of people with mental illness never speak up. They keep it as a secret because they are ashamed of it. They think it's their own personal failure that they have mental illness. Studies have proven that mental illness is not the fault of the person having it. It's nobody's fault. It's mother nature screwing with us like always. Nobody blames someone if they get cancer, so we shouldn't blame someone if they have mental illness. The person already blames themselves for having it. Let's take some pressure off and support them to get some help. It's hard to open up to someone, but once you actually do it, it feels like a huge burden is off your shoulders. Take the burden off. Tell your close friend, tell your parent, tell a stranger it doesn't matter. Just tell someone. You don't have to fight this alone. You will be surprised how many people will come to your aid. The second Speaker was Dr. Mark Sinyor. He taught us how Harry Potter actually teaches us about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It was really interesting. He talked about how teaching children about mental health actually improves their mental health. Kids usually don't like learning about a bunch of cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, but they do like learning about it if it's in a really cool story format. I think this applies to adults too. I want to learn cognitive behaviour therapy using the Harry Potter books too! The third speaker was Dr. Ari Zaretsky. He spoke about how far mental illness treatments have come. He mentioned that the most effective way to treat depression and other mental illnesses was CBT and drug therapy used together. He also mentioned that our current school systems don't have adequate mental health staff to accommodate all the students who need help. After the speakers, I went to have French toast with a lovely family. Who talked a lot. A lot of the talk was about some dog. A lot of the other talk was about some other dog. The rest of the conversation was about what happened during the day. We talk so much with each other every day. Maybe we should also talk about how we feel. About how we really feel deep inside ourselves. It's not done often, but it should. Just tell your whole family about how you have OCD and it's really tearing you apart and you'd be surprised by how much support you'd get. "Hey guys I got some mental illness I want to talk about" might not be the most entertaining conversation to have, but not everything in life needs to be entertaining. This isn't a comedy movie. It's your life. In life there are awkward moments. My grandfather always said, "Extremely important moments in life ain't really dramatic. Just kinda awkward to be honest." Learn more about Mental Health Empowerment Day on Facebook:

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