Mental Health Empowerment Day (MHED) is a collaboration of the Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education and a group of volunteers. MHED was conceived by Leanne Matlow, a former teacher and guidance counsellor in Toronto’s day school system, and currently a Cogni-tive Behavioural Therapy Counsellor specializing in anxiety for children and adolescents. Through her practice, Leanne identified the pervasiveness of mental health issues and quickly understood that they are often mischaracterized by teachers and administrators as academic issues. She found that well-meaning teachers often did not know how a mental health issue like anxiety would present itself in the classroom setting and consequently would generally not approach the issue in the optimal manner. Unnecessary suffering by our students and their families was the result. Wanting to bring information and share strategies to improve mental health literacy in our community settings, Leanne conceived of MHED and partnered with the Koschitzky Centre to bring it to life.
Mental Health Empowerment Day is designed to shed light on the mental health issues affecting young people in our community and enable our community organizations and those with youth in their lives to proactively address this pervasive problem. Most importantly, the goal of Empowerment Day is to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life of our young community members. MHED’s goal is to provide a forum for discussion and arm participants with concrete tools to take action within schools, community institutions, youth programs and their own families.
Mental Health Empowerment Day features different leading mental health experts and educators each year, who provide practical insights into identifying mental health issues and share coping strategies for their management. Special focus is always given to discussing the stigma that prevents sufferers from seeking and receiving care. It is important that MHED continues to be a staple event in the Toronto Jewish community because we all should be empowered with the tools to help those who are suffering. There is nothing more important than helping our youth thrive and it is important to recognize that there is help and there is hope.
The Mental Health Empowerment Day Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto will ensure the continuation and financial support of MHED and other mental health initiatives that will benefit our community and provide useful resources to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and alleviate unnecessary suffering by our fellow community members.