Youth Mental Health Conference: The pain is real but so is healing

The month of May is not only for showers and flowers – it’s also for healing and revealing. For the first time, PEACH organized a Mental Health Conference and the event brought community members, leaders and youth together in one room to create dialogue about a topic that is not the easiest to discuss.

Panelists included Louis March, Gregory Leslie, Destiny Mae Abraham, Adam Ellis, Derek Williams and Keynote Speaker Scot Wortley. Not to mention, MPP Tom Rakocevic made a special guest appearance. Amongst many topics raised at the conference, some included speakers’ experience with mental health, the role of the father in the household, gun violence, the role of Toronto Police and, of course, youth mental health.

“You cannot continually run youth through the wringer and expect them to come out with a smile on their face. We are all paying today for what we messed up yesterday and this madness must stop” Zero Gun Violence’s Louis March says, “It’s a daily battle and we are not giving up. The youth deserve better.”

Keynote Speaker Scott Wortley presented eye-opening research and statistics as well as quotes from youth who have had encounters with the police.  This of course brought up a lot of important questions from community members.

PEACH, which stands for Promoting Community Health and Education, offers a wraparound program that provides a tailor-made approach to address complex issues that sometimes deal with the justice system.

Youth Advocate, Wayne Black, notes, “The Criminal Justice System does not adequately address mental health. Rather, it breeds, houses and contains it. Being locked up for long periods in institutions without resources to address mental health, especially in a system that’s supposed to rehabilitate the individual.”

Other topics such as toxic masculinity and the role of women were brought up and evoked a lot of emotion from the audience. The reaction from speakers and the audience was certainly an indication that events such as the Youth Mental Health Conference are necessary in this community and according to Black, it will not be the last.

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