CMHO x Casey Palmer — “Making Back-to-School Not so Cruel in the Midst of a Global Pandemic”

With the start of the schoolyear afoot and an impossible decision on our hands, I found myself wondering how to write about the things we’ve discussed ad nauseam since the pandemic started. How much we parents are struggling, trying to take care of our children with limited resources—especially with school here and every choice feeling like a bad one. Or what it’s like living in a world where turning a blind eye to racism is more passé than ever, leaving us wondering how we can fix the problem that took centuries to create. 2020’s undoubtedly been a year for the books, but it’s not quite over yet—school’s back, and it’ll be stranger than ever before.

Back-to-school, circa 2019 — who even knows what it’ll look like this year?

Back-to-school was already tough enough for kids in the pre-COVID world, a million questions rushing through their heads as they start a new school year ahead. Will they fit in? Are their outfits on point? What stories can they tell when people ask about their summers? It may be a distant memory for many of us, but those first few days often set the tone for the year to come, and everyone wants to start it off on the right foot.

But that’s only if you have the luxury of those being your biggest problems.

Fact is, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things so much more difficult, and it’s hard to see how we’re going to figure things out.

Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 — Day 4 — Get a Check-Up from the Neck Up!

So for anyone who doesn’t know it already, I’m one of the eleven digital ambassadors for Children’s Mental Health Ontario, doing what we can to shed light on children’s mental health in our province and all the stories that come with it. I’ve been at it for a little while now, joining their #kidscantwait Twitter chats, supporting fellow ambassadors’ initiatives, and steadily learning more about the many faces mental health has out there in the world.

But why do I do it?

This is Why I’m a Children’s Mental Health Ontario Ambassador.

Admittedly, my interactions with mental health issues have been scarce. I did suffer a nervous breakdown at sixteen because I never learned how to say “no”. And it took me years to get over my shame of not succeeding at private school, but I eventually understood I had to have that experience to set me down the path I’m walking now.

But it’s not a path I’d ever want my kids to travel themselves.

I already see the sparks of intelligence in my boys, understanding things about the world around them at a far earlier age than I expected—but I’m not trying to push them.

For better or worse, my generation grew up in a culture of perfection. Our emotions weren’t in the equation—our parents raised us for performance, our lives graded on a pass/fail scale.

But that’s not how it works with kids today, with mindfulness exercises in kindergarten and toddler yoga in daycare. I’m seeing that—in the school system, at least—mental health is working itself into the conversation, wanting our kids to be happy instead of “successful“.

And I’m all for it. Things like being an ambassador for Children’s Mental Health Ontario let me invest in my children’s futures, if not financially, then by pushing the ideas that help shape the world I want to see them in—a better one than the one we have today.

But that’s just my story—my ten peers had very different reasons for joining the #kidscantwait movement.

And Laurie McCann, amongst other reasons, is in it for the sake of her daughter.

Laurie McCann and Why Our Children’s Mental Health Matters.

Laurie McCann—mom, anti-bullying advocate, and Toronto police officer—faced children’s mental illness head-on when her daughter started suffering mental illness at an early age. And the question she had to ask herself was this—where would she find the help she needed in a world that didn’t value children’s mental health issues the same way it did with the physical ones?

Laurie put it well:

“If you walked into a doctor’s office and said, I need to see a doctor about a broken arm, they are not going to tell us to come back in eight to 12 months, they’re going to help you. But when your child has a mental health crisis, they are like…well… we can’t fit you in until six months down the road, and that’s not helping anybody.”

No—what Laurie and so many other parents’ stories go to show you is that we’ve still got a very long way to go, and with any luck, these interviews can play a role in moving our children’s mental health care system in that direction.

So without further ado, here’s the Chatting with Casey Children’s Mental Health Week special, Day Four: Get a Check-Up from the Neck Up—a chat with Laurie McCann.

I hope you enjoy it!

And that’s it for this one—when we unify our voices, our messages are louder and more likely to be heard! You too can join the #kidscantwait movement, but for the meantime, be well out there!

Until the next, I remain,

–case p.

Patti Rantala | Toronto Isn’t Everything: Mental Health Across the Province | Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 Day 3

Children’s mental health’s about more than just the stats.

The People Behind the Numbers — Canada’s Children’s Mental Health Stories

While we do talk about mental health now more than ever, with many of us, the conversation goes as far as sharing a post once a year and calling it a day.

But it’s about so much more than that. There are people behind the stats — people suffering from mental illnesses who have friends and families who care about them. There’s a whole world of untold stories out there about children’s mental health, and we hope that through this work for Children’s Mental Health Week, we can start to change that.

And sharing these stories is essential—in some parts of our province, children and youth wait upward of eighteen months for treatment for the problems they face today. The community-located mental health centres can’t keep up with the ever-growing problem—with suicide as the second-most cause of death for children and youth in Canada; inaction can prove fatal.

Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, puts it well:

“There are long wait lists across the province for child and youth mental health which is placing a strain on mental health service providers, hospitals, and the families turning to them for care…immediate and increased investments towards the support of young people with mental illness are needed. We can’t continue with the status quo.”

In short, it’s important that we do what we can to bring about some much-needed change… and it usually starts with a conversation.

Irwin Elman | Let’s Not Take Mental Health for Granted! | Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 Day 2

Trying to take on an issue as big as children’s mental health is can be daunting. It’s a problem uniquely affecting everyone who deals with it, which means there’s no one singular way to solve it.

But better people than I have tried, and many of them still haven’t given up.

Today’s guest is one of those people—Irwin Elman, the former Ontario Child Advocate, who staunchly believes we can develop a society that treats children’s mental health as a priority instead of as an afterthought.

And what this conversation went to show me is how much I’ve yet to learn about children’s mental health. From his expertise and experiences, Mr. Elman got me to reframe how I thought about the issue at hand and redouble my efforts to provide the best environment for my children’s mental health!

Courtesy of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, it’s another Children’s Mental Health Week special! I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for listening, and until the next episode, I hope you keep working to make a future we can be proud of! And don’t forget to join the #kidscantwait movement if you want to show your support — https://www.cmho.org/stay-informed!

Until the next,

–case p.

Kim Moran | Why Does Children’s Mental Health MATTER? | Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 Day 1

Welcome to Children’s Mental Health Week 2019! I’ve partnered with Children’s Mental Health Ontario to spread the word not only about what they do but also why it’s so important that we’re all aware of issues surrounding children’s mental health!

As a Dad with three- and five-year-old children, I’ll admit that their mental health’s not always at the forefront of my mind. I think about things that contribute to it—giving them a safe environment to express themselves; being present and listening to them as much as possible; emphasising time and time again that it’s more important to be happy than successful by someone else’s standards—but I think there’s some time yet before it becomes part of our regular family conversation.

But I’m not so naïve that I don’t see how important it could become in our future.

Why Children’s Mental Health MATTERS.

Children—and the world they have around them—pretty much change in the blink of an eye. The kids we know today won’t be those kids forever, and the decisions we make today will shape the world they live in tomorrow. They need us to lead by example, make the right choices, and help build a world that sees their cries for help as a priority—not just a phase they’re going through.

And that’s why this Children’s Mental Health Week, we wanted to really drive the point home and explore the various aspects of children’s mental health and why it’s so important to start caring about it now, not when it becomes a problem.