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June 2015

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Donna Green: Founder and President of Stella’s Place

Last week, I sat down with Founder and President of a new mental health treatment assessment center for young adults. Donna Green, as quoted by the executive director of the organization,  is ‘an inspiring visionary philanthropist who is leading the charge to change the landscape of mental health services with the many young adults we are working with.’ Her organization, called Stella’s Place is looking to launch early next year. Being a student myself, I knew I had to find out more from Donna about this unique initiative:  

What is Stella’s Place?

Stella’s Place will be Canada’s first treatment and assessment centre for young adults with mental health issues.  We are creating a hub that will be based in the community – the first location will be in Toronto’s downtown core –making this facility accessible and welcoming, which is different from the very few services that are offered today.

Another thing that makes Stella’s Place different from other facilities is that we are creating all our programs in partnership with young adults. We have a young adult council with more than 100 members. We are also working with professionals, and executed three years of research into what is available internationally so that we are able to draw on all the best practices while creating our program. But because our young adults have lived experience of the mental health system, nobody knows better than them what was really good, what was really bad, or what was really missing.

It is very important that we are based in the community, close to the subway line, which, again, is very different from going to a hospital or to an institution. What the research shows is that young adults who are not experiencing an emergency cannot even get into a hospital or institution. This is why we have designed a café storefront where you can come visit us. Behind this café is a full service of different treatments for kids struggling through various disorders.

Do you have any advice for those who are having trouble coming to terms with their mental health?

One of the things that our program has been very big on is peer support. We developed a Peer Support Training Program to train young people with lived experience to go out and actually speak with, or be available to, young adults who are not sure how to move forward or ask questions. When we complete our website, you will be able to go online to find support – we are not only going to have peer support workers but we’re developing an online platform for engagement. Then, as a young person, if you’re wondering how you feel, and what you should do, and where you should go, and how to ask questions, and who you can ask these questions to, you can get online to find help. Once we launch our online café, young adults will be able to speak to peer supporters, with lived experience, online and be part of a chat-line, but also find guidance to seek the clinical help you need.

What inspired you start this initiative?

Our daughter, Stella. When she was a teenager, she suffered a sudden bout of depression and anxiety. And it was then, in the middle of her high-school career, that we experienced first-hand the lack of appropriate services, coordination, and age appropriate treatment that is available in Canada without private dollars. When we were faced with all these situations first-hand, we then proceeded – for the next 3 or 4 years – to get the help she needed. We rallied around her as a family and did what we could until she was more stable.

When she was feeling better and getting on her way, I knew something had to change. I just felt that as a woman who has been involved in the community in other initiatives, this was something that I was really committed to taking on, to help the 1 in 5 young adults suffering with the same issue.  We can’t afford to lose our kids and not give them better support than they’re getting now.

What can schools do to help their students with their mental health?

There are a lot of news article and traffic around mental health, especially for those in this age group (16-29). I know that there are some programs being offered that allow kids to either talk about it, or teach mindfulness or yoga-type exercises. Generally speaking, it’s become less of a stigma so kids can now start talking to each other about these things. We’re hoping to, at some point, partner with schools so that they understand that we are available to them.

What can the youth do to help themselves?

Talk to your friends! It’s a double-edged sword – on one hand, if they speak to the wrong person, they might get stigmatized. But if they have a close friend, speak to them. If they can’t, speak to their parents and say ‘I’m not feeling great, and I don’t know what to do.’

Go to your guidance counselor at school to find out what support you can get if you’re feeling too much pressure, can’t get out of bed anymore, or have too much anxiety. Some kids are self-harming and this is a sign of something that is more serious, and you should seek help.

How do you plan on achieving your goal of reaching thousands of students across Ontario?

We are building incrementally. Once we launch our online portal, in 2016, it will be a good way for people from across Ontario to connect with us. We have to establish the back-up clinical support for the online chat groups and peer support, so we are being very thoughtful about how we set it up. We’re hoping to have kids contact us earlier on, to try and use early intervention and support to prevent more serious issues from coming up.

It’s going to take a lot of work. We’re launching our first program this June, training about 30 peer support workers, who we hope can then go out into various communities and start providing peer support to young adults that need someone to talk to. Sometimes just having someone to talk to and answer their questions can be of help, especially when it comes to dealing with preventive strategies before they get more involved in deeper issues.

How did George Brown get involved? 

We decided as a community service to partner with as many community agencies as possible. We didn’t want to duplicate any good services that were there and we knew that George Brown was doing some very innovative things. So we approached them to partner with our Peer Support Training Program and with the online café. The Peer Support Training Program just launched this week, and these students will graduate in August. We are working with all types of organizations and people to form a collaborative team.

When is the online café launching? 

It’s in development now. We’re hoping to begin some trials in late 2015 with a plan to officially launch in 2016.

What are you looking most forward to with this project? 

I think we’re really excited by the new model of this initiative. The idea that Stella’s Place is giving young people with lived experience a voice, a way to give back after their own experiences, is not being done anywhere else. We are developing our programs from the inside out instead of from the top down. We just don’t believe that senior adults with professional experience can accurately dictate what is best for young adults. We need to share the voices of young adults. We’re really proud to be working with such a wonderful group of young people who have helped get us this far.

We will continue to speak to our government officials and make it clear to them of the desperate need out there. The Stella’s Place model is unique and they cannot continue with the same old strategies and medical support, because it’s not working very well. We’re really excited about reaching out to kids in a whole new way, ideally before they get into the deeper issues. Stella’s Place will help the kids get what they need in a very recovery-based fashion.

Women Use #ThePowerOfMakeup To Conceal Makeup Shaming

Whether you decide to go ‘au-naturel’ or wear hot pink lipstick, there are no boundaries when it comes to expressing yourself with makeup. However, with makeup shaming becoming more and more prevalent in society, it may seem that those that take part in this art form are shying away from this expression.

Nope.

If anything, it’s done the opposite. The term makeup shaming was coined to describe the act of shaming those who wear ”too much makeup” to the point where their original features are unrecognizeable. But when Make-Up Guru Nikkie brought this issue to the spotlight in a video that has now been watch over 17 million times, she showed viewers how transformative #ThePowerOfMakeup can truly be.

Women have now taken to social media to show make-up shamers what they just don’t seem to get. Using the hashtag, thousands have been posting powerful pictures of only half their faces with makeup on. With messages of empowerment and self-confidence, the trend has been making the rounds all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“Why wouldn’t anyone want to use a foundation that makes you look photo-shopped without actually being photo-shopped?”

The fact is, women can wear makeup for whatever reason they want. If they are looking to impress someone, trying to conceal an imperfection, or want something they don’t have (eyebrows, maybe?) – let them! Just don’t come running to us when she takes off her makeup and you feel like you’ve been lied to. You’ve been warned.

Why You Need To Purchase PooPourri

Poop. We all do it. But despite pooping on a day to day basis, there has always been an unwritten rule to not talk about poop. PooPourri diminishes this rule when they released their ad campaign, which went viral a few years ago.

PooPourri is a ”before-you-go toilet spray” intended to hide unpleasant odours that arise from a trip to the bathroom. It is targeted towards female consumers and marketed with the idea that women aren’t meant to be the cause for unpleasant odours. PooPourri may come across as a parody or entertainment gimmick, but the product can be purchased on their website, http://www.poopourri.com/, for under $10 a bottle.

At first, PouPourri seems to feed into the notion that females are meant to suppress their natural body activities. The advertisement for the product is seen as sexist and sends a message that women should act in a certain manner- free of bowel movements. However, the advertisement contradicts these messages of sexism and blatant stereotyping of women through absolute hilarity.

“How do you make the world believe your poop doesn’t stink?” The young woman asks, dressed in a blue, flared dress with white tulle detailing. A good question, indeed. The fact of the matter is, that no one likes bad odour. And PooPourri shows audiences very effectively why this is. The existence of deodorants, dry shampoos, body lotions, body sprays, and perfumes all lead us to believe that we always ought to smell good. Why shouldn’t we continue this practice in the bathroom?

The generalization and conclusion drawn from the advertisement is that if bad odours exist, bad odours must be suppressed. And although this is a plausible statement, it is an statement that is only applicable to women. Despite the entire human population doing daily bowel movements (hopefully), PooPourri is, or at least is marketed, towards only half of said population. At least that’s what the attractive, Caucasian woman with the British accent makes it sound like.

Whether it’s her pearl accessories or red lipstick, the Caucasian beauty persuades audiences through the use of her sex. Her overall appeal will remind some audience members of Audrey Hepburn. So when a woman such as this asks a question about the smell of poop, audiences are bound to be intrigued – and a little embarrassed – by the matter. It is certainly not a topic discussed by ladies dressed in satin and pearls.

There is a sense of familiarity with the foreign accent in our North American ears. The woman does an effective job of delivering the message that ”poop is gross”- without making it sound, well, gross.

The advertisement focuses on the provoking emotions of embarrassment within females by creating scenarios of unpleasant occurrences that can happen when going to the bathroom at work, a party, or your significant other’s home. Suddenly, viewers are forced to recall all the embarrassing moments they had at work, school, or at a party, creating a sense of need to purchase a bottle  of PooPourri.

With over 33 million views of YouTube, the product has reached a significant amount of toilet users with a promise of  ”a business that makes your business smell like it never even happened.” The advertisement is so ridiculous, it will have viewers questioning the authenticity of the product. With only $10 a bottle, discretely ”laying a brick” at your boyfriend’s apartment seems like a good investment after all. Keep things fair by handing your boyfriend a bottle to use when he’s at your place. Because equality. You won’t be the first one to do so. PooPourri sold over 4 million bottles with a better Amazon rating than the iPhone 5.

It will ”save your relationships” – because no one wants to leave a subtle scent of a 300-cow dairy farm in their boyfriend’s bathrooms. Whether it’s the cheeky dialogue, the attractive woman, or the use of, at times, uncomfortable visuals, if this Poo-Pourri advertisement will not initiate sales (although it most certainly did), it will, at the very least, leave 33+ million viewers talking and thinking about the product.

Stephen Harper announces $2.6 billion in funding for SmartTrack Plan

It’s been a great day for the city of Toronto as Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his plans today to provide more than $2 billion in funding from the federal government for up to one-third of the cost for Toronto’s SmartTrack transit line.

The announcement was made by Harper alongside Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Toronto Mayor John Tory today. The Smart Track, as stated on Mayor John Tory’s website, will provide service from the Airport Corporate Centre in the west, southeast to Union Station and northeast to Markham in the east. It will have 22 new station stops and five interchanges with the TTC rapid transit network.

Oliver said the funding is all about making Toronto a liveable place for citizens and efficient place for job-creating businesses at today’s announcement, which took place at the Toronto Transit Commission’s Hillcrest Complex in midtown Toronto.

That budget included $750 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, and $1 billion for each year after, for a new public transit fund to help cities fight traffic congestion by encouraging public-private infrastructure projects.

Woman of The Week: Elena Mayer

Last week, I had the chance to attend the Hard Hats and High Heels, an event hosted by Women Who Rock at the Art Gallery of Ontario. As an informal networking organization, the Canadian fashion industry and women in the mining industry came together for the night, looking to accomplish their goal of empowering women who work in the industry. I sat down with the founder of the organization, Elena Mayer, before the show for some insider information on the unique initiative.

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Can you tell me about Women Who Rock? 

Women Who Rock is a organization, which started last year, with the mission to attract and attain more women in the mining industry. I founded it while I was still a student at the Schulich School of Business. The reason why I did it is because I felt there was a bit of a disconnect between junior women and senior women in the industry. For one thing, women didn’t know about the opportunities they have in mining. Secondly, women already in the mining industry had trouble connecting with their colleagues. It all started by a few socials.  When more and more women began to join these socials, I decided to start this organization to allow women to have a more formal umbrella. It quickly turned from a social setting to an empowering organization.

What inspired you to start this organization? 

A number of mentors and trailblazers in the mining industry inspired me. It is quite male dominated. Only 11% of those in the industry are women. These women, in addition, are very disconnected from one another. I experienced this myself when I was 1 of 3 female students in the global mining management program. But my professors and other women in the industry were so inspiring and so passionate about it that I thought why not do something like that?

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Why did you decide to go into the mining industry? 

I actually have a legal background. I’m a lawyer. Because I speak Spanish, I was put on all Spanish speaking files and 90% of them were mining cases. But what really got me interested was the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention 2011 when I had to go and promote my firm. That’s when I knew that this is what I wanted to do.

How do you suppose women can break the barrier of being the minority in such a male dominated industry? 

I think, and this is both from research and statistics, that a lot of times, women lack confidence and suppress their opinions, especially when surrounded by males. There are some progressive companies that create programs. They have forums for women to share their idea and allow them to realize that their ideas are worth something. Women, have the tendency, even though their idea is valuable, to not share their ideas until they are a 100% sure. Women Who Rock hosts seminars with the basis of giving women confidence to speak up. What we strive to do is to create out of the box events, such as Hard Hats and High Heels, that will give women an opportunity to speak up and create a sense of self confidence. Learning all of this, for women especially, starts with the way we look and the way we dress.

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How important do you think it is to dress well? 

It’s not necessarily about fashion sense, it’s about being comfortable expressing yourself. For a very long time, women had to choose between being feminine and beautiful or being smart and intelligent. If you’re smart, we are taught to tone down our sense of fashion. So what we’re trying to do now is to show that the new generation of business women do not have to choose between one or the other. You can still be fashionable and feminine and love colours and be smart and intelligent to pursue a career just like men do.

 

What advice do you have for women in other industries? 

I think we all have a common ground as women. We like to socialize, we like to talk, and we like fun events. Creating a sense of comradeship no matter what level and what type of a job you’re doing is very important as shown by our models today. Our models today are those who work in the mining industry. They’re ideologists, they’re engineers, they’re assistants. What they have in common is fashion. They want to dress the way they want but they also need to learn the right way to do so. We want to help the fashionistas succeed in a corporate world.

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What are you most looking forward to tonight? 

I’m looking forward to the panel discussion. Tonight is all about trial and error. We’re bringing two distinct industries together. Having two panelists from the mining industry and two panelists from the fashion industry allows us to be united by the same goal – promoting gender diversity. We want to give women the confidence to express their brain and their beauty. I’m hoping that we can show, through this event, that we’re not all that different.

 

How To Ace The Belly Button Challenge

While you’re in front of the mirror scrutinizing every inch of your body today, go ahead and wrap your arm around your waist to see if you can touch your belly button. The “Belly Button Challenge”, as social media has deemed it, is the latest trend to take over the internet. The challenge has obtained 130 million hits over the past couple of days as men and women are taking to Twitter and Instagram to post their attempts.

Sorry to break it to you, but according the rules (we don’t know who makes them either), not being able to reach your belly button means you need to need a smaller waist. The challenge has become very popular in China but is quickly making international news with men and women from all over the world catching on to the bizarre trend.

Challenges like this have become very popular nowadays. Whether its sucking on a glass or cup for the Kylie Jenner Challenge or taking drastic measures at the gym to achieve a thigh gap, it’s no secret that women are constantly under pressure to reach the ideal standard of what is considered beautiful.

People are quick to comply to these trends as they jump on the bandwagon to attain the next requirement for the perfect body. As women who can touch their belly button from behind continue to brag about their accomplishments on social media, other women are scrolling through their Instagram feeds and researching the best exercise moves to get a non-existent waist line. The question is, how does one get a butt like Nicki Minaj, thighs like Cara Delevigne, and a stomach like Adrina Lima?

You don’t. Instead, the best way to ace the belly button challenge is to try it, fail it, and move on. And if along the way, you somehow do manage to touch your belly button, give yourself a pat on the back (or stomach). And then move on. Because the perfect body isn’t one that allows you to touch the lintiest part of your body. The perfect body is one you’re comfortable walking around in. One that allows you to spend time with your family and friends, eat your favourite foods, and take the stairs to the second floor without getting too winded.

If you really want a challenge, take yourself to a yoga class. Let’s face it, touching your belly button doesn’t even qualify as a yoga move. What would be truly impressive is seeing these women do the lotus headstand. But even then, why be a pretzel when you can eat one instead?

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Tylenol Commercial Launches #HowWeFamily Campaign

When did you first fight to be considered a family?

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, asks an important question in Johnson&Johnson’s latest Tylenol commercial. The company is doing what no pain medication has done before; launching an ad campaign featuring the modern North American family.

Although there is no direct correlation between migranes and the touchy montage featuring gay, lesbian, and biracial families– set to air next week — the campaign will be part of a three month project during which 10 real families will be filmed in series of “docu-shorts.” You can view these shorts on HowWeFamily.com.

“The reality that we know today is that families look and feel different than they did before and we want to celebrate that fact,” senior marketing director, Manoj Raghunandanan, said. “Because we’re a family brand, because we’re an iconic American brand, and we want to continue to serve families into the future, I think it’s important that we reflect what that family is today.”

The City Council From A Millennial’s Perspective

With only a few years left before I graduate from post secondary education, I have taken it upon myself to experience as many things as possible before I’m expected to become an integral part of society. However, I’m beginning to realize that quenching my thirst for knowledge will never be possible as the opportunity to learn something never ends. So when I had the chance to attend my first City Council Meeting at City Hall yesterday- I went.

The atmosphere was serious; a large group of well informed citizens gathered to listen in on what their councillors had to say. Various issues from around the city were raised as each councillor took turns addressing them in a professional, timely manner. It was similar to stimulations we, students, take part in during debates in our Political Science classes. Except this time, the debaters were older, the topics were more current, and the results affected people instead of grades. The Key Matter of the day; the Gardiner Expressway.

My involvement in the Gardiner Expressway debate is fairly recent. As I began to learn more about the Hybrid and Boulevard options, I saw the importance of making the right decision. Being a Millennial, I am invested in the wellness of our future. Therefore, being informed on the environmental, economical, and health factors associated with the Gardiner East options allowed me to have an opinion on the matter. It is the reason I attended City Council. Preparing to live tweet the proceedings, I anxiously waited for some decisions to be made.

However, when City Council announced an in-camera session, I was immediately disappointed. As members of the city, we deserve the right to be informed and be involved in the matters that affect us. As the public paced outside Council Chambers, the 10 minute recess turned into a 3 hour wait. How can a matter affecting so many people be dealt with so privately?

Council was essentially preventing us from gaining the knowledge we need to be an integral part of society. Our need to be well informed citizens was demolished and our intent to be part of the decision was shattered. Not allowing the public to hear the arguments on such as important debate not only lacks transparency, but it effectively demonstrated the importance political power over expert advice.

My day at City Hall may not have revealed a lot about the Gardiner East, but it did reveal one thing; the debate will be a close one. Within a few hours, I was able to hear many different arguments from the public. While one citizen expressed interest in removing the Gardiner East due to the lack of use for it, another citizen deemed the hybrid a necessity as it allows him to come to the city from his home in Brantford.

Council is set to continue the debate today. Stay tuned for more updates.

The Time I Dated Myself

Masturdating (v): the act of dating yourself by going out alone to a movie or restaurant

When I first heard this term I, like many of you, cringed. It’s hard enough to watch senior citizens eating alone in a restaurant. Their old, brittle hands attempting to cut through their steak might as well cut through your heart. And then there’s the fear of the cashier at the box office judging you when you ask for just one ticket to Channing Tatum’s new movie. Not to mention the added horror when you end up sitting beside a couple still in their ”honeymoon phase.” Blegh.

However, with the concept of dating yourself becoming more and more embraced (recommended, even), I became drawn to discovering the fascination behind it. Even though I consider myself to be an independent person, the thought of masturdating never occurred to me. I’m all for a night in with a cup of tea, my favourite PJs, and 45 hours of Netflix. But to go to dinner and a movie alone– with 3 dimensional people? Interesting. So one rainy Wednesday afternoon, I decided to masturdate.

Wearing a black, lace dress and some red lipstick, I strolled into a busy downtown cafe for lunch. Mumbled conversations of business meetings and friendly coffee dates filled the air along with delicious aromas of expensive lattes, waffles and pasta. “Fancy, aren’t we?” I thought, as I ordered the $18 plate of carbs with a side of salad, eyeing the waiter for signs of judgement. None. I was already impressed with myself. Financially stable and pretty? Score!

There were a lot of things I learned while I sat at this table for two. For one thing, people do notice you. Within the hour, one man, also sitting alone, asked if I was waiting for someone while an elderly woman proceeded to ask where I was from. No, and oh, hell no. I gathered enough courage to smile at two other women at the table across from me to let them know how obvious their staring was. “Sorry, we’re in love with your bag.” They admitted, as I quickly changed the subject before they asked me where it was from. They all seemed to be thinking something different about me. And then I realized- I didn’t care.

The food was good. I looked good. And there was no awkward small talk to fill the silence. In fact, it was rather emotionally stimulating being lost in my own thoughts in such a busy restaurant. The vulnerability of being alone added some spice to the elements of a successful first date. The feeling was similar to going out with someone you’ve had a crush on for  a very long time. Even though you think you know everything about him or her, including where they went on vacation back in 2006 (thank you, Facebook!), you still end up getting a little nervous trying to impress them. Masturdating, I learned, is the idea of impressing yourself instead of trying to impress the one across from you.

I would like to address some concerns before I masturdate again. I proved to be a little less than perfect when I found myself mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, forgetting my line of thought. Or- when my thoughts were diverting somewhere I didn’t want to go. It was like texting your best friend when your date says something weird. It was rude.

All in all, I would definitely say yes to a second date.  I already have an outfit in mind. Dinner, maybe? Can’t wait.

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