Report from 1st Real Conversations in Mental Wellness

Report on Real Conversations in Mental Health – “Pick Your Brains” Event

January 16, 2012, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Canadian Mental Health Association, 1355 Bank Street, Suite 402


In the long-term, Real Conversations envisions a healthier community in which all citizens are better served – the ill and those around them. We’re passionate about shifting the health system in wise and uplifting ways. Our role is to provide opportunities for people to connect across organizations to experience meaningful, productive conversations that lead to initiatives.

Through our work and our personal lives, we have observed the need to focus on the mental aspects of health. Refreshing new ways are needed to accomplish engagement and results. We recognize how ambitious this is, given the wide spectrum – from stress, burnout and depression to major mental illnesses. We’re up to the task, with the help of the distinguished group who generously offered their time, input and opinions to launch our journey on January 16, 2012.

We will use the information captured in the Appendix to design and host a series of Real Conversations in Mental Wellness. We anticipate that each gathering will be open to those working toward mental wellness, will address current needs and will inform the topics for future gatherings.

Outcomes of the Pick Your Brains Event

This report is a rich compilation of the ideas and feedback collected from the participants in multiple ways: notes taken in circle, post-it notes written by participants, table facilitator notes and room observers. There was an opening and a closing circle, with three questions that sparked authentic table conversations in a World Café format.

The need for a distinctive new term and identity, such as Mental Wellness, was expressed very clearly. Education and awareness of the issues, as well as outreach to and respect for the individual were all highlighted as high priority needs to improve mental health.

We learned that participants would invite their colleagues to future gatherings if there was alignment on a vision, a clear message of intent involving action, focused topic areas, diverse participation, energizing/inspiring gatherings and follow-up between events.

We also heard that there is a desire for integration of the whole, versus terms that divide such as Conventional and Complementary. However, we sensed a conflict in the system, a resistance to unite the whole, which is stopping progress and change in the system. We are left with the question: What will it take to bring down the fences separating groups?

We are grateful to these participants who offered their time, talents and brains! 

Appendix: Notes of Real Conversations in Mental Health, January 16, 2012

Intentions Expressed in the Opening Circle

curiosity/optimism – bring mental health into a way of life, common topic of conversation – transformation of society – how to bring mental health into our community acute care facility – perspective – support – learn and listen – lightness, regard mental health in a light hearted manner – connection – interconnection – relationship – open mindedness – exploration – mental health everyday – acceptance of all ways to look at things – open-minded, focus and presence – experience/reality – change – inclusiveness/wholesome – hopeful – freedom – sharing – discover – vision


Within our sphere of influence, what is needed to improve mental health?

Themes Post-it notes by individual participants
  • Awareness/Education to understand the issues
  • Outreach/connection
  • Respect the individual
  • Branding Mental Wellness
  • Awareness – self and group/community
  • Awareness of mental issues (emotional) at a young age
  • Start early at four on health
  • Education – especially for children – teach them about their feelings/ emotions/ thoughts and how to reflect on them and learn from them
  • Education
  • Model social skills
  • Openness – looking at what makes a community mentally healthy instead of sick. Education with and on positive factors that make us mentally healthy in all domains of our life.
  • Outreach
  • Reach out to people
  • Isolation
  • Remove isolation
  • More conversations
  • Honour the individual; recognize who they are and who they think they are
  • Contextual understanding of where everyone is “at”; handing autonomy to those without a voice.
  • Returning to work after “illness” versus after “depression”
  • Compassion
  • See mental health from a different perspective
  • Recognition that health is more than physical – respect for mental health
  • Understanding
  • Demonstration and advocacy for Mental Wellness
Question 1: Table Facilitator and Observer Notes
Awareness /Education /Connection
  • Children – Talk openly at home and school – Make it part of health studies  – Address bullying and its implications
  • De-stigmatize mental illness
  • Exposure to resources, opportunities: e.g. Open houses (like “Open Doors Ottawa”) for general public awareness.
  • Public workshops, including at schools/churches/hospitals
  • Our sphere of influence
    • Self awareness – Our own emotions, mental wellness
    • Our interactions with others
    • Our contribution (ideas, values, roles, experience)
  • Connecting with neighbours, fostering healthy communities, reducing isolation
  • Workplace health
  • Listen well – meet people where they are – offer hope
  • Cannot separate body and mind
  • Separate illness from the person – labeling is a barrier to wellness
  • Power issues – somebody’s got to win
  • Be transparent aware and present
Branding Mental Wellness
  • Mental Wellness
    • prevention
    • resilience
    • social justice issues
    • networking and social support
  • Start small –  build momentum
  • How to link to health budget?


What would compel you to invite your colleagues to the first “Real Conversations in Mental Health”? What value are you looking for?

Themes Post-it notes by individual participants
  • Align to a common vision of Mental Wellness
  • Clear focused intent
  • Focus on specific actions/topics, or bit-size chunks, to not be overwhelmed and have the most impact
  • Participants
  • The Experience
  • Between events/gatherings
  • Move from big picture vision to practical application and hold the paradox of the two
  • Potential for alignment towards common vision of mental health
  • Words have energy: Mental Wellness
  • Clear message of intent
  • Focus for intent of the event
  • A focus that would draw colleagues into a larger conversation in mental health with multiple points of view
  • Focused Topics:
    • Use the sphere of influence
    • Happiness
    • Suicide prevention
    • Recognizing depression
    • Conflict resolution
    • Holistic approaches to MH
    • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
    • Diverse approaches: dance, meds, Reiki, talking, art
    • Multiple approaches equivalent to multiple intelligences
    • Coming out of the MH closet
    • How people talk about mental wellness – come and join us!
    • Workplace Wellness/MH x2
    • The Worried Well x2
    • Mental Wellness; assisting anxious “well”
    • Mental Healthcare & comprehension
    • Self care and development of a mental health care provider
    • Education
    • Solutions
    • Mental Health – how to keep it in our daily life – start with “I”
    • My neighbourhood
    • Social change to enhance mental health – social justice
    • Contributing to social transformation
  • Diverse participants
  • Diverse views
  • Spectrum of needs
  • Like-minded people
  • Participation of key influencers – people who can influence others to focus on their mental health, e.g. leaders in organizations
  • Motivated and inspired to go back and make a difference
  • Inspiring discussion
  • Rich conversation
  • Pure joy of the meetings
  • Value = enjoyment and experience of being together
  • Follow-up
  • Continuance; not just a peak experience
  • Potential for more
  • Potential for practical application and/or networking
  • Plan for Action
Questions 2: Table Facilitator and Observer Notes
Common vision of Mental Wellness
  • Universal (touches all of us)
  • Use positive language – What keeps us well?
  • Talk openly about mental health from birth to death
  • Bridge the divide (complementary & conventional)
  • Real Conversations must clarify its vision and role
Clear focused intent
  • Call to action. Leave with desire to ‘DO’ something
  • “Mental health” includes everything from emergency to health promotion – need to focus the topic!
  • Holistic
Specific actions/topics
  • Available Services:  create awareness, accessibility and connection with possible clients – Resources (e.g. distress line) should be available to all
  • Pick a subject
  • The “Worried Well” and “Walking Wounded”
  • Celebrities as speakers and participants
  • Workplace leaders, people with influence
  • Practitioners/various disciplines
  • Colleagues would need to get something out of attending.
  • Offer credits for participation (would support us MD’s in acquiring the 20 hours/year they require)
  • Why would psychiatrists come to an event?
    • If the event is about the “worried well”
    • Or perhaps they are part of the worried well….
    • Hope that it would change point of view
    • Help think outside the box – fresh air
  • Open conversations up to everyone – friends and families, not just practitioners
The Experience
  • Sharing and learning, energy and inspiration, motivation, empowerment
  • Being part of a meaningful conversation, exploring ideas
  • Networking
  • Value = connection/inspiration


What terminology or jargon is important or concerns you, as we plan our communications for the first event? Is there anything else we need to keep in mind?

Themes Post-it notes by individual participants
  • Mental Wellness
  • Integrative
  • Common terminology
  • Humour
  • Mental Wellness x2
  • Wellness
  • Health
  • Wellness – mental health is part of health for everyone
  • Mental Illness -> mental health -> mental wellness
  • This is not about them. This is about us … mental health & resilience
  • Integrative approach to mental wellness
  • Integrative vs Complementary (like a scarf)
  • Integrative – Complementary is like an accessory (picture of a necklace)
  • Casual wording like normal speech, “I’m stressed, pass the chocolate”
  • Function
  • Protective factors
  • Recovery
  • Strength
  • Learning through peers
  • FRAP (Family) WRAP – Wellness Recovery Action Plan
  • Use humour (seriously established) and build on the lighter side for marketing
Question 3: Table Facilitator and Observer Notes
  • “Mental health” too broad – includes:
    • Mental Illness
    • Counseling clients
    • Everyone else
  • Terminology:
    • Support
    • Prevention
    • Determinants of mental health – what keeps us well?
    • Family health
    • Workplace health and safety
    • Resilience
    • Housing
    • Workplace wellness
    • Adolescent wellness
    • Seniors wellness
    • Suicide Prevention
    • Resources
  • Dislike syrupy, unrealistic slogans
  • WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) – leave with a wellness plan
    • FRAP – could also have Family Recovery Action Plan
    • TRAP – and also Teenage Recovery Action Plan
  • Avoid pity, division, stigma, us vs. them, exclusion
  • Separate the person from the illness — the illness is not their identity (i.e. not a “schizophrenic”).
  • Need to shift from old and outdated terminology that implies a hierarchy.  Complementary is not good; integrative or integrative medicine is a much better term.  Create new terms?
  • Use common “day job” language (efficiency, public image, etc.)
  • Create a focused and consistent message
  • Not just awareness –  need tools
  • We identify most with individuals rather than the groups (advertising will often show images of individuals)
  • Market the progression of Real Conversations to demonstrate the innovation of change in health
  • Collaboration with support groups, non-profits, etc.
  • Influencers
  • Wellness target groups (youth, adult, women, men, seniors, etc.)?
  • Mentally ill people with lived experience of mental illness
  • Media –  guidelines (media can cause copycat suicides)

Final thoughts that you are walking away with, expressed in Closing Circle

  • This evening couldn’t be matched (holding a match!)  🙂
  • Well done — I got energy back from a draining day
  • Grateful for you being here
  • Being here brought me hope
  • Grateful for openness and transparency
  • Wholeness
  • Great group — nice to get to know people’s questions – openness to share
  • Enjoyed diversity and conversations
  • Feel inspired — great conversations
  • Really enjoyed; like the energy — even though from 5-8 pm and like the simplicity
  • Uplifting; delicious food and 5 to 8 was an ok time
  • Sensing something about to shift –> pioneers
  • Thank you all — I feel the circle — it’s within our grasp — onwards
  • I enjoyed my time with you — curious to see where going
  • I really liked to be here:
    • I like the format
    • Hope for continuing — more conversation
    • Bridging
    • Vision – at which level is congruence and alignment – vision for mental health and mental wellness
  • Energizing – I met interesting people
  • Enjoyable relaxed environment – I spoke – and listened – and changed some of my perspectives
  • I feel inspired, invigorated and optimistic; it feels like the pieces are falling into place

Feedback provided on post-it-notes

Transcribed literally and grouped by theme

Likes Wishes
  • Diversity of group
  • Included people from different disciplines
  • Variety, diversity of viewpoints brought
  • Diversity of opinions
  • Diversity
  • Nice mix of professionals
  • Inclusive
  • Size of group
  • Energy of the group
  • Enjoyable to engage with others in this discussion
  • Liked the exchange with new people
  • Contact/connection/ideas
  • Conversations
  • Enjoyed the process
  • Very enjoyable
  • Format promoting exchange of ideas including right/left brain
  • Process oriented
  • Wonderful facilitation
  • Music at the beginning
  • 2nd topic – how to draw in my colleagues
  • Focus on mental wellness
  • Reminded of my circle of influence re: social media
  • Great supper
  • The food
  • Food was great – yeah wellness!
  • Great food
  • Nut clusters
  • Dinner was great
  • Great facility
  • Venue
  • Hope to have an event that is different and brings new people together – need a vision for mental health
  • More focused topics
  • An event that focuses on the Worried Well
  • More workshops
  • Spectrum spectrum spectrum
  • Get influencers involved – otherwise the conversations won’t manifest into real change
  • Possibly “non-professionals” (get involved), i.e. clients of the mental health system or family, etc.
  • Ideas for action
  • Strong follow-up in detail
  • Continuum/support for sustainable conversation(s)
  • X rush hour traffic
Help Offered (names withheld)
  • I will help
  • Help to engage some of the social services areas
  • Help bring experience, drop in, be open to what emerges
  • Help with message / focus formation

One Response to Report from 1st Real Conversations in Mental Wellness

  1. Pingback: Facilitating real conversations to build community - Columbian Centre Society

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