Children’s Mental Health Day: A look back at Wood’s Homes celebrations
May 03, 2021
For nearly a decade, Wood’s Homes has been recognizing Children’s Mental Health Day (CMHD) as a way to bring attention to - and break down the stigma - attached to mental health challenges faced by young people. This year, Mental Health Week takes place May 3 – 9 with Children’s Mental Health Day falling on May 7.
Wood’s Homes has celebrated Children’s Mental Health Day in a number of ways, ranging from staff and client-focused campaigns/activities, to far-reaching events involving the community, donors, media, noted Calgarians and even a large-scale march through the heart of downtown.
This year, we decided TO GO BIG… but wait… first, we thought we’d take a look back at how we’ve been able to shine the spotlight on child and youth mental health over the years.
It all started with the understanding that our dedicated staff are the strongest advocates of youth mental health. We knew that if this was a day we would be celebrating annually, we had to start with them and their commitment to our clients. And with that, Wood’s Homes’ SWAT Committee (Stigma, Wellness and Awareness Team) organized a BBQ and activities for staff and clients on our Bowness and Parkdale campuses in order to share information and engage our agency – 500+ staff – in the conversation about Children and Youth Mental Health.
We also did some local advertising to raise further awareness of the many ways Wood’s Homes can help young people with mental health challenges.
In a more public facing campaign, we hung bridge banners in various high traffic locations around Calgary, as well as secured radio spots letting those who need help know that we’re here. The calls to our crisis and counselling services increased as a result and we were able to help those who reached out. We also set up an information booth at Bankers Hall, where we shared information about our services. And of course, we had another day of BBQs for staff and clients on our Parkdale and Bowness campuses!
Mayor Naheed Nenshi proclaims Children’s Mental Health Day for Wood’s Homes and the proclamation is displayed at our Parkdale Campus. This is in addition to an information booth and our vibrant Street Services Van set up at the Stephen Avenue Mall. As well, numerous media outlets provided us opportunities to get the message out!
With friends & family, clients & staff, Board members & supporters, we took to Stephen Avenue in a March for Mental Health that concluded at Olympic Plaza. Nearly 100 people joined us, including now retired Calgary Stampeder Jon Cornish. Everyone carried a sign that spoke to mental health and the work of Wood’s Homes. Mayor Nenshi once again proclaimed the day for Wood’s Homes.
The march ended with speeches by our senior leaders and Jon Cornish. We also saw growing community support in 2015 with both Starbucks and Crave Cupcakes getting involved by providing refreshments.
In 2016, we took our campaign online for the first time. With the help of a number of notable Calgarians, including Mayor Nenshi, Country music star Lindsay Ell, youth advocate and educator Sheldon Kennedy, former Calgary Flames President Brian Burke and many more, we produced Ethan’s Story, a look at mental health and family conflict seen through the eyes of a child. To date, the video has been viewed more than 1,700 times on our YouTube channel.
And of course, the Annual SWAT Committee BBQ!
In 2017, we put our efforts into sharing a client and his family’s story with media. CTV news featured the client who spoke to bullying, LGBTQ2S, transitioning and mental health struggles, and how Wood’s Homes was helping him. CTV also spoke to his mother, brother and one of our clinicians about Wood’s Homes support and whole-family approach to the care we provide for our young clients.
Students at our William Taylor and George Wood Learning Centres got involved this year by creating artwork that addressed mental health stigma. These were displayed for all to see at our Parkdale campus during the Annual SWAT Committee BBQ.
We also implemented another virtual campaign with Hope & Helping Hands, following a client’s journey through Wood’s Homes and how she found success and meaningful employment with the support of our Youth Culinary Arts Program.
2019 saw us seize the opportunity to showcase the work being done at our new Inglewood Campus. Media from around the city covered our first Children’s Mental Health Day Open House with our culinary students providing breakfast for all guests.
Guess included: Inglewood Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra and MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, Joe Ceci who spoke to the important work of Wood’s Homes. We also took the opportunity to thank the City of Calgary for funding our newly created Addictions Specialist position.
Attendees heard from Sharlet Allan, a Peer Leader within our Youth Culinary Arts Program who spoke to her transition from a street-involved youth to someone who’d recently been accepted to SAIT’s Culinary Program. Sharlet’s story was featured on various media outlets from around the city (Check out CBC’s coverage here). She was even featured in a Globe & Mail feature on the country’s next culinary stars!
Wood’s Homes Foundation also held three 3rd Party Fundraisers throughout the week to raise funds for those we support.
Like everyone else, this was the year we had to do things differently. COVID-19 drastically changed how we – and everyone else– could gather together, and Children’s Mental Health Day was no exception.
The manager of our Eastside Community Mental Health Services appeared on CBC Calgary to speak to our crisis counselling services. We also created 3 animated videos for our younger clients to help them understand the changes brought on by COVID-19, and provide resources should they, or their family need to talk.
Our clients got involved by ‘Drawing their Feelings’ about COVID-19, which we then shared with staff and included in our 2020 Annual Report.
Again, Wood’s Homes Foundation and our generous family of donors joined in by honouring Children’s Mental Health Day with us. Their support helped us continue our work with children, youth and families in this time of COVID-19. A special donor even stepped forward to match all gifts up to $5,000, doubling the impact of our community.
While we continue to adapt and cope with this pandemic and its challenges, we are not about to let it take away from the importance and recognition of Children’s Mental Health Day – especially when we know people are struggling more than ever. That’s why, as mentioned, we’re going BIG in 2021!
On May 7, we encourage everyone to look up – way up – as the Calgary Tower and the City of Lethbridge City Hall lights up green for Wood’s Homes! We’re also encouraging those who see the tower to snap a picture and share on their own media channels with the hashtag #childrensmentalhealthday.
Feel free to tag us as well:
We are also inviting our community to join our family of monthly donors in honour of Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Day. Signup during the month of May and your impact will be doubled! Become one of 50 donors to give $50 a month and your entire first year of giving will be matched, up to $600.
While Mental Health Week is an important time to talk about mental health, as well as provide information on supports available at Wood’s Homes and in the larger community, it’s also a time to remember that this conversation shouldn’t be limited to just a few days. Especially now, with the extraordinary changes we’re all facing every day, we need to remember to check in with the young people around us, as well as each other and our loved ones.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs to talk, we’re here.
Our no-cost, crisis counselling services:
Photo by Vicki Jauron