Mental Health Awareness Week

1477345435Isabella-Acosta-Rumination-Text-by-Micha-Frazer-Carroll-700x715(art by: Isabella Acosta)

The first week of May is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada. Our mental health involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us and plays a big role in the relationships that we have with others and the relationships that we have with ourselves. Mental health is something that everyone has, and looks different for every single person.

Our mental health is something that we have to maintain just like we do our physical health and well-being. However, maintaining your mental health isn’t as easy as just eating more vegetables or flossing every night, it’s about forming a relationship with yourself and really taking the time to check in and see where you’re at. Understanding were your own limits are for how much time you can spend with others, how much school work you can do in one day, and even how many scary articles about Donald Trump you can read is important. All of these things we do and care about are things that require emotional time and labor and it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we just need to take time for ourselves to rest and reset. Taking this time is often referred to as self-care and can be as simple as writing in your journal, hanging out with your cat, or tending to your cactus collection. Setting up healthy boundaries is another big way that we can take care of ourselves and build space for positive mental health in our relationships. By acknowledging our boundaries and communicating them to others we can make sure that our wants and needs are being taken care of. For more information on healthy communication and boundaries check out session 5 of our Healthy Relationships for Youth curriculum.

In our relationships with others, it’s important to acknowledge that their mental health is different than our own. We need to respect the needs and wants of the people we care about and particularly those living with different mental illnesses. When it comes to supporting friends and loved ones who are living with mental illness be supportive and non-judgmental when they are talking about their experiences. Trivializing the mental health struggles of others when they are different from our own is never a cool thing to do. Respecting the boundaries of what language folks want to use to talk about their own mental health and how much they want to share with you is important. However, it’s also important to know your own boundaries and how much support and emotional labor you are able to do for another person. If you feel like supporting a friend or loved one is taking a big toll on your own mental health then let them know (in a respectful way) and help them find other resources and people to reach out to for support. Ensuring that we are supporting ourselves along with others can be a tricky balance but promotes the most positive mental health for everyone.

Here are some ways that we can spread awareness and create communities that support positive mental health. The biggest way we can do this is by working to reduce stigma around mental health and making it easier for folks to reach out and talk about their mental health. Understanding that mental health is something that we all have and that it looks different for everyone is the first step. Acknowledging that there is no shame in seeking support and that it takes a lot of courage to reach out to others and to work through mental health concerns is a powerful way to support positive mental health in ourselves and in our communities. Also spreading awareness that there is no shame in needing medication in order to maintain mental health, or therapy, or in any of the other choices that people make to help themselves. Reducing stigma around mental illness can be done by using inclusive language, this means not using terms like “crazy”, “psycho” or generally any language that others folks living with mental illness. This language is harmful and also reduces someone to a mental illness. People living with mental illnesses are full, whole, people and not seeing past a diagnosis is not respecting that.

For more articles on mental health check out:

Emotional self-care – http://www.rookiemag.com/2016/02/self-care/

Trusting your own brain – http://www.rookiemag.com/2015/03/how-to-trust-your-brain/

For resources on where to find help look at our Need Help? page

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HRY at national “Building the Field” conference

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Our provincial HRY coordinator Arwen Sweet presenting at this past week’s national “Building the Field” teen healthy relationships conference hosted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation in Toronto.
We are always grateful to collaborate with one another to advance this dynamic, necessary, and ever-evolving field with other recognised leaders who care just as deeply about the work. A great week of learning and sharing!
#healthyrelationshipsforyouth

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#transvisibilityday

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We support trans youth in Nova Scotia and across our country and world, and will always advocate for their safety, belonging, and love. Today is #Transvisibilityday, and we’d like to share some thoughts from Alok Vaid-Menon on the subject:

On this day of trans visibility so many of us are left uneasy and conflicted. Yes, of course, visibility has been helpful and transformative. But visibility is not the same thing as justice. What has become increasingly evident is that the system is, in fact, much more willing to give trans people visibility than it is to give us compensation, resources, safety.

Here are some quick feelings about visibility on this day so enamored with it:

1) “Trans” “Visibility” is an oxymoron. Trans is who we are, not what we we look like. We shouldn’t have to look like anything in particular in order to be believed for who we are. Visibility often is a form of (nonconsensual) labor that we have to in order to make our experiences coherent to others.

2) Trans Visibility is a cis framework. Who are we becoming visible for? Why do we have to become visible in order to be taken seriously? Non-trans people will congratulate themselves for our visibility but will not mention how they are the ones were responsible for erasing us in the first place. The trans movement isn’t about trans people moving forward, it’s about cis people catching up with us.

3) Invisibility is not the problem, transmisogyny is the problem. Trans people are harassed precisely because we ARE visible. Mandating visibility increases violence against the most vulnerable among us. The same system that will require trans people to be visible will not give institutional support to us when we are harassed precisely because we are visible.

4) Visibility often means incorporation. Often the only way we are respected as “legitimately” trans is if we appeal to dominant norms of beauty, gender, race, and establishment politics. Trans people should not have to be patriotic, change what we wear, undergo medical or legal transition, really should not have to do anything in order to be respected. We were and already are enough.

5) Visibility is easy. Organizing is hard. Sharing photos of trans people and calling us “resilient” and “beautiful” does little to address the persecution so many of us face. We cannot love ourselves out of structural oppression alone. How come media visibility of trans people has not resulted in the funding and support of our organizations, campaigns, and struggles?

Let’s push harder and demand more.
…………………………………………………………………………..

For more of Alok’s work, check out their website and Facebook page here:

https://www.alokvmenon.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AlokVaidMenon/

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Spark the Change

We are so excited to announce that our applications are open for this year’s Spark the Change Youth Leadership camp! Check below for Application forms and additional information. ALL F…

Source: Spark the Change

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Eating Disorder Awareness Week

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We live in a culture where we are constantly being told through the media, movies, friends, family members and even by our own brains, what an ideal body looks like and what we should be doing to achieve one. Think of all the get-skinny-quick diets and hot new workout trends that are all over magazines and advertisements. The truth is, we all have different bodies and they are all beautiful and worthy. Somehow, all these negative messages we hear and see around body image sneak their way into our personal world and can have a pretty negative impact on our relationships with our bodies and how we feed them.

February 1st to 7th was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Eating disorders or disordered eating are a mental illness and, like any mental illness, they can be really hard to talk about and have a lot of stigma and shame attached to them. But, talking about them is really important. So many people struggle with disordered eating, and eating disorders are the mental illness that have the highest death rate. Disordered eating affects people of all different genders, ages, races and backgrounds. There are also many different kinds of eating disorders, and you really can’t tell by looking at someone if they struggle with disordered eating or not.  We live in a world where having a healthy relationship to your body and to food is not an easy thing to do.

Think about what most of the bodies you see on TV or in magazines look like. Thin bodies are so often seen as good and beautiful and fat bodies are so often seen as bad and shamed, which is part of thin-privilege. Thin-privilege creates this culture where there is a pressure to be thin and bodies that aren’t considered thin are shamed and discriminated against. Which just isn’t fair. We as humans are so much more than a number on a scale and don’t deserve to be treated differently because of it. All bodies are different and all bodies are beautiful.

We often think of eating disorders and disordered eating something that only women and girls face. So much emphasis is put on women and girl’s bodies and their appearance that it’s impossible to navigate the world as female-identifying person without thinking about or having other people comment on your weight. And, according to the National Eating Disorder Information Center 80% of the people diagnosed with an eating disorder are female-identifying. However, it’s dangerous to think of eating disorders as a ladies-only problem. It’s important to remember that all genders can experience disordered eating and that male-identifying, trans and non-binary folks also face complex and unique pressures that can lead to disordered eating and should be included in the conversation.

So what can we do to cultivate a healthy relationship to our own bodies and support others in having healthy relationships with theirs? First of all, know how the best way to support someone who has an eating disorder or where to reach out for help if you think you might be struggling with disordered eating. For information on how to support someone with an eating disorder click here and for information on where to get help click here.

Also, you can work to create a community that combats the environment that contributes to disordered eating. Two pretty cool, and not mutually exclusive, movements that do this are #riotsnotdiets and the body positivity movement or #bopo. Both of these movements are all about the radical idea of learning to love yourself and your body and how to form a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Both of these movements acknowledge that all different sorts of bodies exist all around us and are all worthy of love. There are tons of amazing accounts focusing on both these movements on social media and we highly recommend checking out both hashtags.

Practicing self-love and body positivity is one of the most radical ways that we can fight against a society that promotes disordered eating and have a healthy relationship with ourselves, our bodies and food. It’s not an easy thing to do but, be kind to yourself and know that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of nourishment and love.

For more reading on this topic check out:

 

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UN Declaration of Human Rights

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How to deal with online harassment

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Image via The Atlantic

The internet is a great place (hello Netflix, cute selfies, and wholesome memes I’m looking at you), but it can also be a spot where *garbage people* from around the world spend their time harassing, intimidating, and threatening others.

If you’ve never heard of the term “Cyber-misogyny”, it would be a good thing to do a quick Google about. Basically, it’s the idea that women and girls face a lot more online harassment than other folks, simply because they are women and girls. It’s not necessarily the “fault” of the internet that this happens, but rather an extension of the crap women and girls face in the real world that is merely perpetuated in different ways online. Now, this also applies to BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Colour), queer and trans folk, and our Muslim communities. If you happen to be a member of a group that already faces oppression irl, chances are some mouth breather will use that if they’re trying to get under your skin online.

With some of these online attacks, we are able to simply roll our eyes, block the person, and move on. With others, however, it may be an ongoing campaign to belittle someone, scare them, and push them out of online spaces (lots and lots of female Twitter users have left the platform because of threats of real life violence or exposure of personal info), often resulting in fear of physical or sexual violence being perpetrated against the victim of online abuse.

So what can we do? How do we fight back?

In Session 7 of HRY (Social Media and Relationships), we look at how to build responsible online communities and spaces. A lot of it is the same as in the real world; stand up for others when you see harassment happening, don’t engage with people who are clearly looking to bother you, and don’t share other people’s information or pics if they haven’t given you permission. Let’s work together to build spaces where people can actually have fun and hang out without worrying about bullying, harassment, or intimidation. In the larger sense, we also need to create a world where we are constantly challenging misogyny, racism, and homophobia/transphobia until these opinions are no longer pervasive and accessible via the internet or anywhere else. It is up to us to create these spaces both online and in our classrooms, friend groups, and families.

For more information about your rights online, what’s legal, what’s not, and how to fight back if you have been targeted via the internet, check out West Coast LEAF’s very easy to read legal info brochure here:

http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014-CYBER-MISOGYNY-Legal-Guide.pdf

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