This Mental Health Week, we’re talking about the importance of acceptance and support
Friend, with Mental Health Week starting on Monday, I’m reflecting on how so many of us have faced our own unique mental health struggles, especially during the past few years. Factors often beyond our control—the cost of living, the housing crisis, inequality, discrimination—led to skyrocketing calls to United Way-funded 211 for counselling services. When faced with these challenges, it’s important to remember that our community is there to help. That there are people who care for us—who have experienced similar trials to our own.
That’s something Laura learned. For years she struggled with anxiety and depression alone and in silence. When she finally started looking for help, she found it hard to find a program that worked for her until she was connected to a United Way-funded program led by people with lived experience.
“The approach … was so different,” she says. “I felt like they were saying, ‘I know what you’re going through. I’m not here to teach you a lesson. I’m here to tell you that you can find your way back.'”
The program helped Laura realize how powerful it could be to manage her challenges. And it helped her regain her sense of hope for the future.
Today, Laura says she is in a much better place, and understands that “mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. Recovery is possible and there is hope for a better, happier life.” She shares her story to help end the stigma and to open conversation.
Across the GTA, United Way is funding programs like the one that helped Laura, spaces where all of us can find the acceptance and support we need. Emergency helplines, peer support, family counselling and harm reduction programs are all available through United Way’s network, as are other critical services that support wellness and connection.
I want you to know that this mental health support is there when you or the people you love need it. That it exists thanks to the collective efforts of everyone in the United Way community, including you. That by working together, we are showing our friends, family and neighbours that they don’t have to struggle alone.
Always, and only, thank you.
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto
P.S. If you or someone you know needs help, you can call 211, a helpline that can connect you to local social services and community supports, including mental health programs.
Things to Know Right Now
The World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park, a collaboration between the Urban Economy Forum Association and UN-Habitat, selected the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity initiative (ILEO) to be included in Canada’s Profile on Urban SDGs project. This project identifies transformative and innovative initiatives that are working toward equity and urban prosperity, the reduction of poverty and inequality and addressing climate change. We were honoured to be included and to share our learnings with others across the country and world.
Child Welfare Policy Updates
Across our region, people are having important conversations on how to transform child welfare systems for the better. In a recent op-ed, Heather O’Keefe, Executive Director of United Way-supported StepStones for Youth, digs into the challenges facing youth aging out of the system, including homelessness and poverty, and why the provincial government’s commitment to a policy redesign is a step in the right direction. Meanwhile in York Region, children and family service organizations are teaming up to improve their ability to help the local community. More than 40 organizations and 140 people joined a forum held by York Region Children’s Aid Society, as well as United Way-funded Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services and Jewish Family and Child Service, to address challenges in the child welfare system and to find ways to collaborate for better outcomes for children and families.
Update from the Frontlines
Housing for Seniors
United Way-funded WoodGreen Community Services hasby converting the site of the Danforth Church at 60 Bowden St. The proposed building will have 50 units, including two clusters of care to provide meal services and round-the-clock staff supports for residents who require assistance. Senior residents in the building will be able to access a full range of health and social supports from personal support workers, social workers, recreational programs specialists, tax clinics, transportation services and volunteers. The project is expected to take 12 months to complete.
Red Dress Day
May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people, also known as Red Dress Day—an opportunity to remember those who have been victims of violence. As the national inquiry made clear, we can all play a role in rectifying this injustice and turning the 231 Calls for Justice into action by holding our governments, institutions, social service providers and industries accountable. Here at United Way, we’re listening and learning from our Indigenous community partners as well as an Indigenous Partnership Council to help us meet our responsibilities in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the expectations of the Indigenous Peoples we serve.
If you need support, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls 24/7 national support line is available at 1-844-413-6649 as is the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.
Host a Ukranian Family
United Way-funded COSTI is looking for families across the GTA who can offer space in their home for Ukrainian newcomers fleeing conflict, many of whom are single women with children. There is a great need for immediate temporary accommodation. To learn more about this program and to host a Ukranian family, visit their website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Mother’s Day Gifts
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, consider a gift that gives back:
- United Way-funded York Region Food Network is selling tea boxes that include a quiche, salad, sweet and savoury treats, and tea, with proceeds going towards their community food programs.
- By shopping at United Way-supported Goodness Gift for a variety of basket options, you support training and employment opportunities for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- The Youth Cedar Basket store, another United Way-supported employment social enterprise, sells a variety of unique First Nations, Métis and Inuit handcrafted products, each with their own special meaning.
- Support one of ILEO’s emerging Golden Mile entrepreneurs by purchasing natural bath and body products from Untainted Bath and Body Care and Laboterra.