University welcomes 600 high-school students for mental-health conference

Crystal Goomansingh and Anna DeBartolo

York University will partner with York Region District School Board (YRDSB) Monday to host Descrambled, an event focusing on youth and mental health awareness.

While there has been a welcome increase in open dialogue surrounding mental illness, little is still known about the scope of mental health and its daily effects on those living with it. The Descrambled event at York will bring together over 600 students from across YRDSB to learn more about mental health through interactive workshops and a special drama presentation written and performed by students from Maple High School in York Region.

Descrambled: A Mental Health Awareness Event will take place April 28, from 9am to 3pm. The drama performance, To the Moon and Back, will be in the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre, Accolade East, while workshops will be in Vari Hall, Keele campus.

Mamdouh Shoukri
Mamdouh Shoukri

The initiative is the culmination of months of work by the students and staff of Maple High. Their goal was to develop an event to foster a deeper understanding of mental health and an awakened empathy for those affected. They hope their fellow YRDSB students will take what they learn back to their own schools to use as a catalyst for mental health awareness work in their communities.

This innovative approach aims to encourage dialogue amongst students surrounding mental health and well-being. Experts from York’s Department of Psychology will partner with YouthSpeak, a youth-focused organization that provides a forum to experience the personal stories of youth resilience and courage. These stories can send a strong message of respect, hope, tolerance and positive change, and inspire workshops focusing on open and meaningful discussion about mental health.

Crystal Goomansingh
Crystal Goomansingh

“We at York understand that the preparation for transition from high school to post-secondary education and adult life can be a stressful one involving significant life choices,” said York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “York University is committed to creating a healthy, inclusive and supportive learning environment and an organizational culture that enhances health and well-being and allows our students to achieve their fullest potential. We welcome this important partnership with YRDSB and hope the conference encourages youth to increase the volume and frequency of conversations about mental health in our communities.”

To the Moon and Back is written and performed by students from Maple High School. A fully student-led initiative, the compilation of narrative scenes offers a compelling and unique glimpse into youth perspectives on mental health that draws on personal experience. It encourages dialogue among their peers and also removing the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.

Global News weekend anchor Crystal Goomansingh will deliver the keynote address. Goomansingh began her broadcast career in radio more than a decade ago before making the jump to television broadcasting and has held a number of positions, including video journalist, host and reporter. She joined the Global Toronto news team last year as weekend anchor and reporter.

Anna Debartolo
Anna DeBartolo

“York Region District School Board is strongly committed to improving mental health and well-being for both students and staff,” said Anna DeBartolo, chair of the YRDSB. “We are incredibly proud of the efforts of our students from Maple High School and their outstanding partnership with York University in this groundbreaking student-created and led mental-health conference. It is our hope that students will develop positive self-images and embrace the differences that make our school communities such amazing and diverse places.”

The mission of the Descrambled conference is to provide a forum for students to share ideas in a format where reliable and appropriate information can be readily accessed, and to provide resources through the support of community agencies, schools, teachers and accredited professionals.