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.

PEACH: Learning Beyond Adversity Summer Employment

From June to August 17th, PEACH (Promoting Education and Community Health) continued to find ways to keep youth focused and motivated-outside of school. The Learning Beyond Adversity (LBA) Summer Employment Program was initially started by Executive Director Shari Castello and Youth Advocate Wayne Black as a way to keep youth engaged and productive over the summer months. Eight young members from the Jane and Finch community had the opportunity to work alongside one another performing tasks that enabled them to expand their knowledge and learn how to work cooperatively as a group.

PEACH partnered with Black Creek Community Farm’s MwanaJuma and planned activities. The summer participants gardened and worked with plants like callaloo and peppermint and cooked nutritious vegan meals such as vegan lasagna and fruit smoothies. Castello and Black realized how important bridging the gap between youth and the elderly was and so the youth teamed up with the seniors at Black Creek Community Farm and learned how to cook meals like popular Jamaican dish, Ackee.  

The program also offered workshops on Financial Literacy, Resume and Job Workshops, Stress Management, Media, and even the process of getting your G1 Driver’s License! The youth were also taken to the Knowledge Bookstore to purchase books, and were given a lesson on how to start their own business and was needed to succeed.

Jordan Thomas, 18, says his experience at LBA Summer Employment was definitely worthwhile/ “I found this program very enjoyable,” Thomas says. “For me it was nice to make decisions about different topics like why it’s important to get your G1 or how to maintain proper hygiene, and how to find a job.”

The recent height of violence in Toronto has shown the importance of initiatives like the LBA Summer Employment and the importance to fund these programs. Not only do these programs keep youth off the streets, but they provide youth with a sense of belongingness, mentorship, accountability, and of course, the knowledge they need to move forward and succeed in their future.

PEACH Radio: Planting seeds, growing a community

There is no doubt that the Jane-Finch community has been known for many things over the years some of which have not always been very positive. This being said, there has also never been a shortage of occasions within the community that are worth celebrating. The launch of PEACH Radio is one such occasion.

Community leader, Wayne Black, and Shari Castello, the Executive Director of PEACH (Promoting Education and Community Health), launched PEACH Radio in the hope that it will serve as a platform that would facilitate dialogue in the community by creating an open public forum to discuss issues such as education, mental health, justice, and more. This exciting and innovating project will also provide many opportunities for young and aspiring journalists in the community. Moreover, local businesses and neighbourhood organizations will benefit as they now have a local outlet through which they can advertise and promote themselves.

“We want people to be insightful and aware of what’s happening,” Wayne Black says. Both Black and Castello emphasize the need for more local communication outlets in the community, citing the many notable developments in the education and public health front that need to be better publicized.

Some of the key focuses of PEACH Radio will include local artists, local athletes, local community organizations and agencies, and the local experiences and concerns of youth in the community.

The official PEACH Radio launch took place on May 3 and despite the rainy weather, familiar faces in the community including local artist, Kofi Frempong, and members of the Black Creek Community Health Centre came to show their support. Other locals artists such as EYE 2 EYE and Sydanie and Terence Penny also showed their support by performing for the audience. Both Wayne and Shari hope that this project will bring to the fore underground issues that are often overlooked and to create a forum that will connect local issues, the arts, culture and education to reinforce the voice of the community. Visit today to hear about what’s happening in and around the community.