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breaking barriers 2020 synthesis

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Meet the delegates

Meet the delegates

identify as Indigenous
identify as members of the LGBTQ2S+ community
identify as members of a visible minority group
live with a disability
live with a mental illness
Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers

Mitch Bourbonniere

Mitch Bourbonniere, who some have described as a Winnipeg superhero, has 30 years of experience working with individuals, families, neighbourhoods, organizations, and communities.


Mitch works with Winnipeg’s most vulnerable people who suffer with homelessness, post traumatic stress, addiction, mental health issues, domestic violence, gang involvement, and sexual exploitation.


He has received many official honours in recognition of his outstanding support and commitment to public safety. With a Master's degree in social work, Mitch teaches at the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and St Boniface. 

Tracie Léost

The stereotypical athlete is usually seen as a jock, obsessed with sports culture with no interest in any other subject. You don’t usually envision an athlete embracing both their running shoes and their voice as a way to raise awareness for an important cause. However, this is the narrative that should be accepted because athleticism and intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. Athletes are allowed to be more than their label and they can use their athletic prowess as a platform for advancement. Advancement for the minority and the underrepresented. 


Tracie Léost is a twenty-one year old Métis woman and a three-time track and field medalist, retired hockey player, and Indigenous youth coach who uses her athletic gifts as a means of advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Since she was seventeen, she has orchestrated numerous events to raise awareness around this tragedy. She has spoken on Parliament Hill for Canada Day, which ultimately led to her receiving the Indspire award in 2018 which is one of the highest honours bestowed on Indigenous youth. Recently, she was inducted into the Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Medal - one of the Métis Nations highest civilian honours.

Background & context

We asked you what creates mental health struggles, and what stops people from seeking help in your communities. Here is what you had to say:


The biggest barriers to help-seeking in the Prairies:

  • 90% of you said there is still stigma associated with mental health

  • 78% of you cited fear that you will be judged by family members

  • 85% of you said that people don’t know who to speak to about going through a mental health struggle

The biggest stressors that create mental health struggle among young people in your communities:

  • 90% of you said academic stress

  • 86% of you said financial stress

  • 86% of you said family relationships

Background & Context
Collab 1

Collaboration session #1


How do people think and talk about mental health in your community?

  • There’s still a lack of awareness about mental health challenges. Mental health is often only talked about when there is a serious crisis or suicide. It’s not recognized that mental health struggle is a problem even when there’s not a visible crisis.

  • Stigma is still a big problem in our communities, especially among older generations. Many people still talk about mental health struggle as though it’s just a way to get attention. There’s a perception — for everyone but especially for young men — that you have to be strong and not ask for help, or that others will define you only by your diagnosis.

  • Within our peer networks, mental health is becoming more of a topic of conversation, and young people are talking about it more openly.

What keeps young people from seeking help in your community (i.e. reaching out for help when they need it)?

  • Stigma and a fear of being judged by other community members. Many young people feel that their families and parents may not understand their experiences or why they need to seek help.

  • Many young people feel the resources they need won’t be available, especially in rural areas. When resources are available, they may only be accessible to those already in crisis or may be subject to long wait times.

  • Readily accessible resources are often not affordable for young people.

  • There is still a lack of knowledge about the signs and symptoms of mental health struggle and where to get help.

What gaps can you identify in your community’s mental health system (policies, programs, and services)?

  • Many communities lack culturally appropriate resources, or resources available in their first language. Citizenship status is a barrier to many international students and prevents many from accessing services.

  • There are not enough mental health workers to serve community needs, and wait times continue to be a barrier to care.

  • Gaps persist in our communities around knowledge and awareness about mental health and that it is a significant problem for many young people.

  • School policies around sick leave requirements and doctors notes can be burdensome for young people who are struggling.

Collaboration session #2:


What goals can we set to address these problems?

  • Take care of ourselves and our own mental health.

  • Educate our communities around mental health to shift how we talk about it, build awareness about available resources, and increase access to services.

  • Advocate for better mental health in our communities through social media and ask our elected officials to take action to improve mental health.

  • Make sure our mental health policies and practices are trauma informed and incorporate harm reduction principles.

Collab 2
Collab 3

Collaboration session #3:


How can you take back some of the skills you’ve learned at Breaking Barriers to work towards some of the goals you identified in your community?


  • Open up conversations about mental health to help educate my community.

  • Be there for someone in my life who needs it.

  • Recognize our privilege when we have it, be an ally, and talk to our communities about our privilege.

  • Use positive, non-stigmatizing language when talking to others about mental health and encourage others to do the same.


Collaboration session #4:


If you could speak to an adult ally (i.e. principal, policy maker) for support to improve youth mental health, what would you tell them?


  • We know plenty of allies who can help support us in our mental health advocacy, including professors and university administrators, our principals and teachers, and hospital staff.

  • Teach students about mental health in health class and the broader school curriculum.

  • Ensure young people and those affected by decisions are involved in the development of mental health services and policies.

  • Make services affordable and accessible in both urban and rural areas.

  • Educate the public about mental health.

  • Focus on upstream prevention and increase services for those who are struggling but not yet in crisis. 

Collab 4
Key takeaways


  • Stigma around mental health and mental illness must be eradicated. We need to be especially mindful of the language that we use, and work to teach our communities about how to have open and safe conversations about mental health so that young people feel empowered to speak up and seek help.

  • Gaps in resource availability and accessibility must be addressed. This includes providing services in rural communities, addressing wait times, increasing the number of mental health workers, reducing the cost of services, providing holistic services (not just crisis response), and ensuring services are culturally appropriate and trauma-informed.

  • Educating our peers, families, community members, and decision-makers about mental health, stigma, and resource availability is a key first step to promoting help-seeking for young people in the Prairies.

Key takeaways
Next steps

Eradicate stigma.

  • Have one conversation with an adult about mental health in your community.

  • Sign up for a Do Something initiative at Look for the initiatives marked Attitudes to address stigma in your community.

  • Start or join a Jack Chapter. Chapters work year round in communities all across the country – even during COVID-19!

Advocate for better services.

  • Write letters to your local governments about how important local mental health services are. Encourage all your friends to do the same. Start a Google Hangout where you can all write your letters together!

  • Write an op-ed about the importance of including mental health education in the school curriculum. Share it with us at, local media, and your social networks.

  • Research organizations or supports in your community that are culturally appropriate and run by local community members. Share their information widely with your social networks.

  • Read and share's Youth Voice Report, which uses youth insight to make five key recommendations to adult allies on how they can promote better youth mental health.

Encourage community care.

  • Share widely with friends and family so they are better able to support one another.

  • Start with self-care — as an advocate, make time to take breaks and care for your own mental health. Visit our COVID-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub to get started.

  • Have a conversation with someone in your life that could use some support.

  • Check out our Virtual Jack Talks and consider sharing it with someone in your life who could benefit from mental health education.

  • Become a Jack Talks speaker and educate young people about how to recognize signs of struggle and support one another.

Next steps

And don't forget!


Make sure you join the Network Group Facebook page to stay connected to the movement.

Connect and share with the national movement at


Jack Chapters → Bring lasting change to your community by starting or joining a Jack Chapter. Reach out to to get the ball rolling.

Jack Talks → Talks provide young people with the education to recognize signs of struggle and route people to the support they need. You can bring one to your community, host a Virtual Jack Talk online, or become a Jack Talks speaker at

Do Something → The mental health movement is shaping systems, smashing stigma, and so much more. Every action is essential. Start a Do Something initiative in your community.


Be There → People are getting better at speaking up about struggle, but too few of us know how to give that essential support. Be There exists to guide you through the basics. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours, get started at

Thank you to our revolutionary sponsor.

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