Canada 15,000/150: Wellbeing for the seventh generation

By Dr. Trevor Hancock

This is National Aboriginal Day (June 21st) and we are just 10 days away from Canada Day. So it is a suitable time to reflect on Canada 150, or – as Inuk film-maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril rightly pointed out in one of the recent Walrus Talks – Canada 15,000. After all, before the two ‘founding nations’ of Canada appeared on the scene back in the 16th century, the real founding nations had been here some 14,000 years.

Just as Indigenous people were not celebrating in 1992 the 500th anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by Columbus, I can’t imagine there will be many celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. And who can blame them? The harm inflicted on the Indigenous people of the Americas in the past 500 years has been devastating, as has been the history of the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous people since 1867, as demonstrated in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While we can’t undo that history – and indeed need to face it and accept it – we can create a different story for the next 150 years, and there is no better time to be thinking about this than right now. Moreover, in doing so, we can acknowledge an approach credited to Indigenous ways of thinking, namely to plan for the 7th generation. Since a generation is roughly 20 – 25 years, 7 generations takes us out about 150 years.

As a long-time planner and futurist, I am well aware of the difficulty of planning for a time horizon of 150 years, or even 50 years. Sadly, our political cycles do not reflect the reality of the seventh generation viewpoint, indeed they barely reflect the next generation. But here are some ways to think about what connects the present to the next 100 years or more, and why today’s decisions are so important for the long term.

First, consider that the buildings and infrastructure we create are with us for 50 – 100 years or more. The suburban sprawl we have created since the 1950s still shapes our way of life, our transportation systems, our energy use and our impacts on human and ecosystem health, and will do so for decades to come.

Next, recognize that a female foetus in her mother’s womb today contains within her developing ovaries the eggs that one day, some 20 years hence, will be her children. If those infants live to be 80 – our current life expectancy, although by no means predictive – then the mother of that yet-to-be-born infant carries within her the eggs that will be her elderly grandchildren some 100 years ahead.

Some of our most toxic pollutants are called persistent organic pollutants because they were designed to be persistent; unfortunately, this means that we and our descendants will carry body burdens of them throughout our lives.

The carbon dioxide we are spewing out – and that Donald Trump wants to increase – has an atmospheric lifetime of up to 200 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and will thus continue to overheat the planet. And the species extinctions we are creating at 10 – 100 times the base rate over the past 10,000 years, are forever.

But perhaps the new BC government – more attuned as it is to environmental sustainability and social justice – could use the opportunity afforded by Canada 15,000/150 to initiate a conversation – in partnership with Indigenous people in particular – about our long-term responsibilities and our duty to future generations.

Fundamentally, it is unethical for us to consume the resources and harm the natural systems that our descendants will depend upon for their own wellbeing; this is the ethical principle of intergenerational justice. Arguably, it is also unethical for us to appropriate ecosystems and resources that other species require for their own survival; the Earth is not ‘ours’ alone, we share it with many other species, many of which we depend upon for our own survival.

So – much as we are doing here in Victoria with our ‘Conversations for a One Planet Region’ – as we mark Canada 15,000/150, lets think about the next 150 years, the next seven generations, and how we ensure a more healthy just and sustainable life for them.

© Trevor Hancock, 2017

Originally published in Times Colonist June 18, 2017

 

Healthy Corner Stores-well, why not?

By Dr. Trevor Hancock

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a conference in the US on adolescent health. One of my fellow speakers spoke with energy and passion about the need for young people to eat a more healthy diet. But it was a very American speech, rooted in an ethos of personal choices and individual responsibility. While noting that our food is laced with fructose and high levels of sugar and fat (oddly, I don’t recall her mentioning salt or lack of dietary fibre) she did not suggest that we should be regulating the food industry that provides this unhealthy diet.

I pointed this out rather firmly, suggesting that we should. Repeating Nancy Milio’s famous phrase, I said we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice. But all too often we make the unhealthy choice easy – and then wonder why people make unhealthy choices. Unsurprisingly, this suggestion was not met with much enthusiasm. Nor was another questioner who wondered how people in low-income communities, faced with ‘food deserts’, could make healthy choices when all they had were corner stores and fast-food restaurants. The speaker suggested they should create community gardens.

I have nothing against community gardens, indeed I welcome them for all sorts of good reasons; at their best they strengthen community relationships, provide exercise, green havens and links to nature, even vegetables and fruit – and they might save some people some money. But I don’t see them as a viable solution for people who live in low-income food deserts.

Instead I suggest another approach: The Healthy Corner Store. This approach was pioneered in 2004 by the Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based non-profit, in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The Food Trust noted that in low-income communities, where supermarkets are often lacking, “families depend on corner stores for food purchases. The choices at these stores are often limited to packaged food and very little, if any, fresh produce.”

So they set out to change that, working with local stores and their communities. The Philadelphia network now involves more than 600 corner stores. A 2014 evaluation of the Philadelphia initiative found that it resulted in “healthier choices, healthier businesses and healthier communities” and the network has now gone national.

This approach is now underway in Canada, with an initiative launched by the Toronto Food Policy Council in 2014 and by the Food Policy Lab and others in Newfoundland in 2015. The Toronto initiative began by mapping areas of the city where there was lack of access to healthy food and where low income populations live.

They selected a pilot convenience store in a high-rise complex in East Scarborough whose owners were keen to sell healthier and more affordable food. Working with the local community, including the youth, they identified local healthy food preferences and worked to strengthen relationships between the community and the store owners. Then they worked with the owners to improve their business planning, including purchasing, marketing and signage.

The product will be a ‘how to’ toolkit they hope to take to some of the other 2,000 convenience stores across the city. The intent is to boost sales and profits in the store, which makes it an attractive option for other stores to adopt, although it is too soon to tell how much this will change people’s diets.

The Newfoundland project is based on the recognition that “Newfoundland and Labrador has the most corner stores per capita, as well as the highest proportion of corner stores in rural areas, of all of the provinces or territories in Canada”, according to the Food First NL website. In rural communities, they note, these stores are also important community hubs, which means these stores can help strengthen community as well as improve healthy food choices. As in Toronto, they have started with a pilot store from which they are learning, but then plan to expand across the province.

Of course, changing our food culture takes a long time, especially in competition with the powerful marketing of fast food and junk food. But this seems like a worthwhile effort that could readily be adopted in BC, both in big cities such as Vancouver and in small, rural communities.

© Trevor Hancock, 2017

Originally published in Times Colonist Feb 27, 2017

Photograph by Claudio Vasquez

 

Local thinking and action on global issues

Store frontBy Dr. Trevor Hancock

“Think globally, act locally” was one of the enduring slogans of the 1970’s environmental movement. But I believe that we need to think locally as well as act locally, and thus I am leading the organisation of a series of local Conversations on Victoria as a One Planet region, a concept I first suggested in my August 10th column last year. The purpose is to explore the idea and begin the process of imagining a future for our community where we have a high quality of life and a low ecological footprint.

But this is no mere academic exercise, it has a very practical application. We are entering the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch created by human activity. We have become a force to rival nature; in one telling line in a short video – Welcome to the Anthropocene – produced for a 2012 international conference in London, the narrator notes “we move more sediment and rock annually than all natural processes, such as erosion and rivers”.

On top of that, we are changing the climate, have made a hole in the ozone layer, manage three-quarters of the land outside the ice-sheets, and have started a sixth Great Extinction. Our rate of resource use and pollution is so high that if everyone on Earth lived the way we do, we would need three or four new planets to meet our demands.

We cannot blithely continue on like this. Nor can we say to the rest of the world – sorry, you must take less so that we can take more; it would be unjust and they will not accept that. So clearly we need to learn to live within the limits of the one small planet that is our home.

I recently came across Bioregional, a non-profit consultancy based in the UK. They have mainly been working with developers on ‘One Planet’ developments; Dockside Green, as orginally conceived, would have fitted right in. But more recently, some cities have been developing and adopting One Planet plans; of particular interest to us is Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England, which has a population about the same as ours. And last Friday in Vancouver there was an event to begin to explore ‘How do we become a One Planet city?’ So our series of Conversations are right on target.

But getting from here to there will not be easy, because the changes we need are massive, transformative – and they have to happen quickly. However people are not going to willingly and easily make the changes that are needed if they see them as harmful. That is the dilemma – and the challenge – we face. Can we imagine and then describe a positive vision of what our region would look like if it had a high Happy Planet Index? And more to the point, what would our society be like, how would we reconceive our economy, what are the value shifts we would have to bring about?

Our Conversations, then, clearly need to be as much about philosophy, the humanities, the arts and the social sciences as technology and the natural sciences. We will need need visionaries, hope and imagination, innovation and new forms of entrepreneurship that make a profit while building natural, social and human capital.

These free Conversations start Monday, January 23rd from 5 – 7 PM at the Robert Bateman Centre, 470 Belleville Street and continue weekly for 5 weeks. The opening Conversation will lay out some basic ideas and discuss the estimation of Victoria’s ecological footprint, an essential step in measuring the HPI. Over the following weeks we will discuss the Indigenous perspective on these issues (Jan 30) and what a One Planet energy system (Feb 6), transportation system (Feb 13) and food system (Feb 22nd) would look like.

This will culminate in a UVic IdeaFest event on Saturday March 11th at New Horizons in James Bay. But already ideas are being hatched for more Conversations: What is the role of the arts in contributing to this transformation? What do the various faith communities have to say about a One Planet way of life? What sort of economy fits a one Planet region- and many more issues. The Conversation is just beginning.

© Trevor Hancock, 2017

Originally Published in Times Colonist.

Photo by Claudio Vasquez.

To Reform For Health

By Dr. Trevor Hancock

The high cost of health care, driven in part by a strategic failure to invest adequately in prevention and self-care support, is diverting our attention and resources from what should be our number one priority. On both humane and economic grounds we need to reduce the burden of disease and the need for health care.

But doing so is largely beyond the scope of the health care system and the Ministry of Health. Because the major determinants of our health lie in areas such as food, housing, education, income, safe and healthy neighbourhoods, good working conditions, a clean environment and a stable climate – none of which fall within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. This requires reform for health, in which the whole government, led by the Premier, accepts and acts upon its responsibility to improve the population’s health.

As a society we need to invest in policies and practices that will improve the health of the population. And we have to stop creating ill health that just adds to the burden of disease and the costs of health care. Yet we know that “social injustice is killing people on a grand scale”, as the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health bluntly put it in its 2008 report; it is also making people sick on a grand scale.

People whose lives and choices are constrained by poverty, hunger, homelessness, poor education, unhealthy living and working conditions, multiple insecure jobs and other stressors will find it hard, if not impossible, to lead healthy lives and raise healthy children: It is a testament to their strength that so many manage to do so in the face of such adversity.

The costs of poverty and inequality are not only lost human potential but significant economic costs. In an April 2016 report, the Public Health Agency of Canada found that for just three health care services, representing only one quarter of total health care spending, “socio-economic health inequalities cost Canada’s health care system at least $6.2 billion annually”.

Noting that the lowest income group accounted for more than half of this excess cost, they concluded that “Improving the health of this group could significantly reduce these costs”. When you add in the other costs associated with poverty, it becomes clear that poverty is so expensive that we just cannot afford it. Which is why provinces such as Ontario are beginning to look at some form of guaranteed minimum income.

In addition, we are becoming increasingly aware that our current economic and industrial system is creating massive global ecological changes that threaten to undermine the very basis of our health: An adequate supply of water, food, fuel and materials, waste detoxification, a stable climate and a viable web of life, of which we are a part.

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Claudio Vasquez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The danger is that when ecosystems decline, the societies embedded within and dependent upon them also decline. In ecological and human health terms, business as usual is so expensive that we can’t afford it. We need to switch to a new development path, one that puts people and planet first, not profit – at least, not profit based in an economic system that ignores or externalises damage to people and the planet.

We need to invest in poverty reduction, affordable housing, food security, education, a fossil fuel-free economy, sustainable development and other key determinants of health. Because ultimately, the health of our population depends upon what we do beyond health care.

But this is not only about public policy, important though that is. It is also about what the private sector does and how it behaves. The reality is that many private sector activities threaten health; we have seen countless examples of industries and investors that are determined to go on making money and ignoring the harm they do.

We need to pay much more attention to what Dr. John Millar, a former Provincial Health Officer for BC, has called ‘the corporate determinants of health’. In fact, we need a new economic model –in which we aim to simultaneously increase natural, social, human and economic capital – and new ways of measuring progress.

Now that would be reform for health!

© Trevor Hancock, 2016

Originally published in Times Colonist on 26 Dec, 2016

 

Social change is at the heart of promoting health.

By Paola Ardiles

Who are we?  

Bridge for Health was created in 2013 as a volunteer based network to foster innovative strategies that enable people to have more control over conditions that impact their health. Since its inception three years ago the network has reached people across Canada and abroad, and has evolved into an incubator of social innovation in health, with empowerment and community engagement at its core.

Our Goal

The co-op works with community organizations and businesses to co-design healthy social and built environments that promote wellbeing.  The ultimate goal is to support transformation of our society towards a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all.

Why a co-op?

Co-ops promote inclusiveness, collective leadership and shared ownership, all concepts that are core to promoting health and wellbeing. The co-op will focus on social innovation research and consulting.

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How to get involved?

Join the co-op member today!

Have a say in how we operate and grow.

Make an impact and join our research and consultant team or join one of our committees to help us sustain our efforts..

Connect today at info@bridgeforhealth.org

 

Promoting Health and Economic Development one student at a time.

health-change-labBy Marianne Meadahl, Paola Ardiles, Shawn Smith, Simon Fraser University

The community will become the classroom for one group of Simon Fraser University students this fall. As part of their involvement in an immersive course called Health Change Lab, they’ll be tasked with finding potential solutions for some key community health issues, while learning from and being mentored by community stakeholders.

Billed as a “living laboratory” the Surrey-based course was developed by Paola Ardiles from SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Shawn Smith from the Beedie School of Business RADIUS social innovation lab. Working together with the City of Surrey and Fraser Health, students will spend one day a week in Surrey, conceiving ideas and creating projects designed to impact health and wellbeing in the community.

The Change Lab concept was launched five years ago by SFU alumna Jennifer McRae while still an undergraduate student, as an experiment in the future of learning at universities. Run for several years as an interdisciplinary experience between the Faculty of Environment and Beedie School of Business, the program has been offered at all three campuses and is now partnering with Health Sciences and adding a Health Change Lab cohort in Surrey. Students in any of the Change Labs earn seven credits towards a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

In Surrey, health innovation dovetails with SFU’s relationship with neighboring Fraser Health Authority, the City of Surrey and the University’s role as a co-founder of the burgeoning Innovation Boulevard, designed to grow health and health technology in the region.

“This is a unique approach because students are not only learning, they will be making a difference in this community, as they will work on priority issues identified by Surrey partners,” says Paola Ardiles, a lecturer in health sciences and champion of health innovation, based at the Surrey campus.

The 30-student cohort includes students from health sciences, business, interactive arts and technology, and arts and social sciences. Students will spend the first week getting to know an array of community players and take a “social innovation walking tour” of downtown Surrey. A retreat to shore up their roles as prospective change-makers will follow.

They’ll next identify key issues such as food security and active transportation, taking a wide view that focuses on root causes rather than symptoms.

Students will share their emerging venture concepts with a panel of entrepreneurs and community leaders for feedback, drawing input from mentors. They’ll do a “deep dive” into prototyping and test their early stage ideas, giving demos and making presentations along the way.

“Our goal with the Change Labs concept is to create the most powerful experience of each participant’s undergraduate experience,” says Shawn Smith founder of RADIUS. The Health Change Lab, like other courses in the entrepreneurship and innovation program, focuses on building great future entrepreneurs, moreso than specific venture outcomes. But Smith says many Change Lab concepts have already moved on to the incubation process. “Our plan,” he adds, “is to be SFU’s main pipeline of future change-makers.”

You can follow the student’s journey this term via #healthchangelab

Bouncing forward to a healthier, just future

By Dr. Trevor Hancock

The concept of resilience has received a lot of attention in recent years, perhaps because we face increasing challenges at all levels, from the personal to the global. Resilience is seen as an important way of responding to those challenges, or having the capacity to respond.

The word stems from the Latin resilire, meaning to jump back or recoil. It seems to have first been used in engineering, but then has been taken up by disciplines as diverse as ecology, child psychology, community and social development and urban planning; the British Standards Association even has a Standard for organizational resilience.

In psychology, the term refers to “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress”, according to the American Psychological Association. Importantly, they and others are clear that resilience is not something you are born with, but that it is to a large extent a learned behavior and an attitude – and once learned, it stays with you for life.

Research has provided us with a good idea of what promotes resilience in people, especially young people: having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. If children feel loved and have people around them they can trust, they are likely to be able to handle challenges and succeed in managing them.

As Sherri Torjman of the Caledon Institute noted in her 2007 book Shared Space: The Communities Agenda, building resilience requires communities to invest in both personal capacity development – “the skills, abilities and assets of individuals and households” – and community infrastructure – “the supply of amenities and resources that contribute to wellbeing”. In fact, there is a reciprocal and mutually reinforcing relationship between resilient people and resilient communities.

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Photography by Claudio Vasquez
In more recent times, the concept of resilience has been applied to social as well as natural systems; communities, organisations, even societies and nations. A recent book from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research describes it as the ability of these social systems to “to sustain and advance their wellbeing in the face of challenges to it”. Indeed the lead authors consider social resilience to be “a key characteristic of successful societies” – and, we might add, communities.

Resilience in ecosystems has a somewhat different meaning than it does in psychology. In 1973 C. S. Hollings not only defined ecological resilience but importantly, he showed that one way that natural systems handle changes and disturbance is that they can flip into a new and different stable state.

This is an important shift in our thinking about resilience, because we don’t necessarily want to ‘bounce back’ if that means we return to the situation that was the problem – or caused the problem – in the first place. Instead, we need to ‘bounce forward’, out of the situation that is causing the stresses and into a new, better alternative stable state.

Which brings us to the topic of healthy cities, where many of these concepts come together. Because healthy cities consist of people, both as individuals and gathered in communities, as well as a multitude of public, private and non-profit organisations, all embedded within natural systems. If cities – or more precisely, the people in cities – are to remain healthy in these challenging times they not only need to be resilient themselves, they need their communities, organisations and ecosystems to also be resilient.

Because ultimately, we are only as resilient and healthy as the natural ecosystems in which we are embedded. So we have to stop – and in fact reverse – the stresses we are placing on these systems, which means shifting to an ecologically sustainable way of life.

We may not be able to make natural systems more resilient, but we must avoid stressing them up to and beyond their tipping points; we don’t want to push them to the point where they shift into a new stable state that may not be compatible with human civilization.

As we face the many challenges of the 21st century, whether as individuals, communities, cities or entire societies, we need to bounce forward to a healthier, more just, more sustainable future, not back to the 20th century conditions and way of life that have created the problems we face.

© Trevor Hancock, 2016

Originally published in Times Colonist, 17 Aug, 2016.

Building bridges based on truth

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by Mariel Belanger

Truth and Reconciliation

Building bridges based on truth, to begin the first act of conciliation must occur. There is nothing to reconcile if the majority of non indigenous Canadians believe the fabricated history taught to them through media and slanted social studies. Colonized social constructs continue in this neo-colonial time. Breaking through from beneath the glass ceiling of colonization is a task we have to work at from both sides of the social construction that is Canada.

What most Canadians don’t know was that Residential schools didn’t close until 1996. But before that another wave of assault was launched against native families. The 60’s scoop saw Native children ripped from their families and delivered to white families who thought they were the better. Many of the children taken in the scoop suffered great trauma that has affected many families to this day.

Righting the wrongs of the past come in many forms.

“They cry” BCAFN regional chief Shane Gottfriedson said about returning BC’s ancestral remains from worldly museums and galleries. I believe the reverberation from their cries has been vibrating inside of us this whole time. It tells us things are wrong. Until our ancestors are resting, we shall not rest. Imagine if suicide and mental health had deeper roots? Roots that affect some more than others. DNA memory acted out. “They cry” I believe they do and their memories flood back to us, sometimes in states of confusion. Righting the wrongs of the Colonial past will have far reaching benefits.

Truth telling comes in many forms. Reconciliation, what does it look like?

Our people told stories through song dance and performed tellings. These are the methods that impact the eyes, ears and mouths. They make us cover them with our hands. Their impact is why we perform Beneath the Surface as a core teaching tool.

This is how we engage in the Truth and Reconciliation, to bring light to dark places in a personal message through live theatre and group workshops. Imagi’NATION Collective is a dedicated to provoke deep thought and understanding of true First Nation history in Canada’s dark past and invite participants to open dialogue and their truth telling with the intent of rebuilding community through healing, self-care and performance arts practices.

Originally posted July 12, 2016 in the imagi’NATION Collective

http://inimaginationtribe.wix.com/imagination#!Truth-and-Reconciliation/t1ni0/57851ccc0cf25aa82d54e168

(Photography by Madelaine McCallum)

Food policy must address the issue of meat

IMG_3319By Dr. Trevor Hancock

It’s not a good time to be an Albertan. Not only is there growing opposition to the oil industry in general and the tarsands in particular, and to the pipelines needed to get their product to market, but their second iconic industry – beef cattle ranching – is also coming under attack. And as with the tar sands, the reasons are that the industry has adverse impacts upon both the environment and health.

According to the latest inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, animal and crop production accounted for 8 percent of total emissions in 2014, an increase of 21 percent since 1990. (This is not as bad as it may seem, since the population grew by 28 percent in the same period.) However, this does not include emissions from energy used during the agricultural production process, nor the energy and other emissions that result from the production of fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals.

More worryingly, agriculture accounted for more than a quarter of methane emissions and almost three-quarters of nitrous oxide emissions. Both these gases are more potent greenhouse gases than the carbon dioxide we usually worry about. In fact, methane is more than 20 times as potent, and nitrous oxide around 300 times as potent.

Livestock agriculture is of particular concern because its emissions account for almost two-thirds of all agricultural emissions. There are two main sources: Enteric fermentation (in digesting their food, cattle produce and burp out large amounts of methane) and the storage and handling of cattle, pork and poultry manure, which produces methane and nitrous oxides. In fact, methane emissions from cattle (both beef and dairy) account for almost a quarter of Canada’s total methane emissions

Between them, enteric fermentation and manure management account for more than half of GHG emissions from agriculture. Most of the rest comes from emissions from soils, largely due to the use of fertilisers, which accounts for a further 39 percent.

On a global scale, the impact of agriculture is massive. A 2016 report of the the UN Environment Program’s (UNEP) International Resource Panel estimated that GHG emissions from the food sector in 2010 were about one quarter of all human-caused emissions. This is only going to get worse as low and middle-income countries turn to a more Western diet, high in meat.

According to data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, world average meat consumption per person doubled between 1961 and 2011, but even so, in 2011 people in African countries derived only 88 calories per day from meat, while those in the high income regions derived more than 400 calories per day from meat.

While there are many forms of meat, beef is particularly problematic. For example, according to a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, although the environmental impacts of dairy, poultry, pork, and egg production in the USA are roughly the same per calorie consumed, “beef production requires 28, 11, 5, and 6 times more land, irrigation water, GHG, and reactive nitrogen, respectively, than the average of the other livestock categories”.

Or as a report in the National Geographic put it in 2014: “For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork or 3 of beef.” This makes meat – and in particular beef – a bad bargain.

Small wonder then that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the USA recommended last year that Americans should eat a diet that is “lower in animal-based foods” or that the UNEP’s International Resource Panel recommended that we need to “reorient away from resource-intensive products such as meat”. The Panel noted that if high-income countries reduced their meat and dairy consumption by 50 percent this “could lead to up to 40 percent lower nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions” from the food sector.

The Liberal government has indicated it will work to create a National Food Policy “that promotes healthy living and safe food”; it is also committed to reducing Canada’s GHG emissions. I hope it will have the wisdom and courage to address the issue of meat, environment and health as part of that policy.

© Trevor Hancock, 2016

Originally published in Times Colonist.

#DearAnxiousYouth | Teens tackle mental health by writing online letters

By Fiona McGlynn

What would you say to a 16 year-old who is dealing with depression? What words would you have for a teenager who is struggling with anxiety? If you could put those words into a letter, what would you write?

The #DearAnxiousYouth letter writing campaign, is asking youth to “Consider a challenge you’ve faced (e.g. feeling stress over graduation, losing a friend) and write an open letter to another youth who may be facing that challenge, helping them overcome it.”

This week, high school classrooms across North America are answering this call, writing letters in celebration of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 1-7). The collected letters are being published online where they will be available year round, so that they reach those who need them most.

The #DearAnxiousYouth letters are a reminder that growing up is never easy, describing a wide array of challenges, from fitting-in to stressing about exams to making important life decisions. They also ring with an encouraging shared message, “You are not alone. We have all been through—or are currently going through—this stage in life together.”

#DearAnxiousYouth is a collaboration between Children’s Mental Health Matters! and The Love Letter Project.

Children’s Mental Health Matters! is a Maryland campaign that raises awareness of the importance of children’s mental health over a week of workshops, events, media, and outreach. The campaign is a collaboration of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) and the Maryland Coalition of Families (MCF).

The Love Letter Project publishes letters to help people overcome life challenges. Since 2014, they’ve received hundreds of letters from around the world on a wide range of topics including depression, bullying, grief and much more. These letters can be found online where people facing challenges can read them, find encouragement and support, and gain a more powerful perspective on life.

To learn more, you can visit :

www.theloveletterproject.ca/dearanxiousyouth

https://www.facebook.com/loveletterproj
https://www.twitter.com/loveletterproj

 

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