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HEADSTRONG: Rainbow Board hosts summit for youth mental health

Rainbow District School Board is proud to host secondary students from Sudbury, Espanola and Manitoulin Island for HEADSTRONG, an evidence-based anti-stigma initiative aimed at inspiring students to Be Brave, Reach Out and Speak Up about mental health. The summit will take place on Thursday, September 20, 2018 from 9 am to 3 pm in the Lockerby Composite School Auditorium.

The day-long conference will bring together some 100 students from Rainbow District School Board, Sudbury Catholic District School Board, Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario and the Wikwemikong Board of Education.

Spearheaded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the HEADSTRONG movement educates youth ages 12 to 18 to recognize the signs of mental health problems, and to help reduce the associated stigma.

“Mental health and wellness is a significant priority for Rainbow District School Board,” says Director of Education Norm Blaseg. “Hosting HEADSTRONG is part of our ongoing commitment to support students by nurturing their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.”

He adds: “Through the HEADSTRONG experience, students will be inspired to become leaders and stand up for change in their schools.”

The HEADSTRONG event will feature various stigma-fighting activities that promote hope and resiliency. Students will also hear from two keynote speakers who have lived with and recovered from mental illness.

The first keynote speaker is Asante Haughton. Asante grew up in downtown Toronto. He spent his adolescence trying to navigate the complex social world of high school as he cared for his ill mother, dealt with an absent father, and dodged the lures of gang life. Although Asante experienced debilitating depression and anxiety, he gathered the strength to find help, stay well, and motivate others.

Asante studied Psychology at the University of Toronto, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science. Passionate about positive social change, equality, and mental health, Asante has dedicated himself to help build stronger communities. A poet, thinker, researcher, and speaker, Asante has made several TV appearances. He was featured in a TED Talks special for youth and the documentary “Three Voices.” Asante was also selected as one of Canada’s 150 Difference Makers in 2017 by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The second keynote speaker is Megan Potestio. She knew at an early age that something was different with her. Living with a mother who relied on alcohol to cope, and a father who worked up to 80 hours a week, Megan experienced constant stress, depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Throughout high school, Megan, like her mother, turned to substances to mask her pain. During this time, she made two attempts to take her life, followed by eight months in an adolescent psychiatric rehabilitation facility.

Since 2004, Megan has dedicated her time to sharing her story of recovery and hope with thousands of youth. She received the 2010 Kaiser Foundation Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership, was featured on Global TV’s “Into the Mind,” and is noted as the youngest recipient of the Mary Neville Memorial Award for community members making outstanding contributions towards prevention and early intervention in children’s mental health services. Megan is now married with two children, and, for the past eight years, has been working as a Mental Health Case Manager in Toronto.

HEADSTRONG Summit Agenda
September 20, 2018 – Auditorium
Lockerby Composite School
1391 Ramsey View Court, Sudbury

8:30 am to 9 amRegistration
9 am to 9:30 amIntroduction/welcome
9:30 am to 10:15 am Keynote address: Assante Haughton
10:15 am to 11 amBreakout activities and icebreakers
11 am to 11:15 amBreak
11:15 am to 12 pmKeynote address: Megan Potestio
12 pm to 12:45 pmLunch (Auditorium)
Note: Best time for media interviews
12:45 pm to 1:30 pmPanel discussion with guest speakers and community representatives
1:30 pm to 2:30 pmConversation Café: action planning breakout activity
2:30 pm to 3 pmWrap-up


Media contact:

Nicole Charette, Senior Advisor
Corporate Communications and Strategic Planning
Rainbow District School Board, 705-674-3171 ext. 7217