On the weekend of February 3rd and 4th I had immense pleasure of attending a Mental Health Conference at York University that was organized by one of my friends with Project Heal. This was the very first Mental Health Conference I have ever been to, however I know that it won’t be my last as it was such an inspiring experience. Not only was I able to attend but I was also able to assist in running the conference over the weekend.
Day one began with a welcome address presented by Alicia Pinelli, who then introduced the first keynote speaker Charles Hargobind. Charles spoke about Mindfulness in the 21st Century and his talk was very relatable. He focused on calming one’s mind and body through mindfulness practices and the benefits such practices have on everyday life. He spoke about his own life experiences and how he has used mindfulness practices to calm his mind and body.
Once the keynote speaker had finished there was a break to allow for everyone to mingle as well as check out some of the displays and vendors. These included Scared Queerless and NEDIC both of which I was able to talk to. Scared Queerless is a nonprofit organization started by a group of individuals who are aiming to combat violence in and towards the LGBT+ Community. NEDIC is an organization that focuses on awareness and prevention of eating disorders, food and weight preoccupation, and disordered eating by promoting critical thinking skills and a healthy, balanced-lifestyle.
Next everyone had a chance to attend one of four workshops all of which were very well done as I had the pleasure of attending bits of all four. The first was presented by Alan Faigal and was titled Mindful Movement. He focused on using movement and self-care, including moving creatively to gain vitality and self-awareness. Everyone involved in the workshop was able to find news and creative ways to move their bodies to release some of the daily stressors and replenish their energy. This was a very fun workshop. The second workshop was presented by Alyia Chan and focused on Supporting Loved Ones Experiencing Mental Health. She focused on being able to support loved ones and other’s we work with who are experiencing mental health. She taught how to facilitate conversations, identify changes in mental health, and other ways of support beyond the medical model. Her workshop was very informative and something I think I will be able to use.
The third workshop was presented by Cameron Algie and was titled Overcoming Anxiety Through Play. He spoke about using Improv and play to help with anxiety. He introduced different forms of improv to allow someone to connect with their body, let go of judgement, make mistakes and laugh. This was a very fun and helpful workshop as I live with anxiety. It was nice to be able to let go, just be myself without worry. The final workshop was presented by Alicia Pinelli and was titled Reclaiming Your Awesomeness. Alicia spoke about the awesomeness we had as children and what has made us lose that sense. How society has shaped who we are and what we can do to get back what we had as children. This workshop was very inspirational and is something that really makes someone stop and think.
Once the workshops were finished lunch was provided and NEDIC did a presentation that was truly powerful. Everyone was then able to go to a second workshop of the four that were presented. Finally everyone came together for the last keynote speaker of the day Janna Morrison. Janna spoke about her experience with an eating disorder in a talk titled The Chaos Within: The Healing Process. She shared her journey with an eating disorder as well as her experience with the healing process. Her talk left very wet eyes in the audience, it was very moving and inspirational as well as emotional and very real.
Overall the day was a success and by the end of it I was ready for day two to begin. Stay tuned for Day 2 as well as an overview of the weekend.