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Opening Minds - mindyourmind, TVDSB, and MHCC - 2015

An anti-stigma initiative co-developed by mindyourmind, Thames Valley District School Board, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Community partnerships drive important changes through collaborating on common goals, and the exchange of experiential and evidence based knowledge. Since 2009 mindyourmind has partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in their anti-stigma initiative called Opening Minds. Together with the Thames Valley District School Board in southwestern Ontario, mindyourmind created digital modules where students explore the positive and negative effects of stress, describe the influence of mental health on overall well-being, and encounter personal stories about young people dealing with everyday stress and all the way to specific illnesses such as anxiety and schizophrenia. The digital format is designed to meet youth “where they are,” in terms of readiness and learning preferences.

In February 2015 the MHCC’s Opening Minds was awarded The Innovator Award for its anti-stigma work during the "Together against Stigma" conference in San Francisco.  The award recognizes a "program which creates major impact through new approaches that inspire new possibilities and /or disrupt prevailing views."

Through the Opening Minds initiative, Minding Your Mind was evaluated by Dr. Heather Stuart and her research team at Queens University. Results will inform anyone interested in effective ways to create and deliver lessons that aim to decrease stigma around mental illnesses.

The following excerpts are from Education Canada (March 2014).

“The changes in stigma and the increased social tolerance in student responses as a result of the Minding Your Minds lessons showed that our digital approach was effective.

  • Students’ attitudes moved toward understanding that the course of a mental illness is not entirely in one’s control. One student responded, “… it (having a mental illness) doesn’t make them any less than you.”
  • Beliefs about the potential for recovery from a mental illness were shifted positively.
    • The most positive shift for students occurred in a category focusing on unpredictability and social distance. A student responded, “They are normal people too and deserve respect.”
    • Questions about unpredictability addressed the myth that all people with mental illnesses are unreliable or unpredictable.
    • Questions about social distance asked about a person’s comfort with being a classmate with or even dating someone with a mental illness.
  • Attitudes also changed around valuing socially responsible actions such as volunteering with a program that benefits people with a mental illness.

In all aspects of our work, mindyourmind builds on and integrates the pillars of youth culture (e.g. music, fashion, technology, art, sports). The Minding your Mind modules scaffold learning about mental health in relatable, relevant and practical ways using materials co-created by their peers. Students are better informed about mental health issues and know where to go later if and when information is needed for themselves or for friends. Lessons introduce students to resources in the community as well as mindyourmind’s website. Through the lessons, students see the positive results of their peers’ volunteering in the community. At the end of the lessons, students are invited to initiate activities and get involved in their own personal networks, schools or wider communities to make change.