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Celebrate and Empower  TORONTO MAD PRIDE WEEK 2016 – July 11th – 17th


Mad Pride Week is an arts, culture, and community festival created to celebrate, empower and build community. We are working not only to end stigma and oppression, but to show our strength and enjoyment of life.

Toronto Mad Pride was started in 1993 by community activists in Parkdale as “Psychiatric Survivor Pride Day”, and is now part of a global movement from the UK to Australia.

The festival will have a great line-up of events: the Mad Market of arts, music and fun; a Public Forum presented by the Empowerment Council; a Theatrical Performance by Friendly Spike Theatre; a line-up of Academic Events, including discussions and activities co-sponsored by Ryerson University; and the annual flagship Bed-Push Parade (symbolizing the movement from hospital to community) that ends with a Picnic at Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

To create these events we need and value long-term relationships with community partners and we’re asking you to contribute to Mad Pride Toronto 2016. There are many ways to do so:

  • Contribute through monetary or in-kind donations
  • Volunteer with event planning and/or on-site at events
  • Spread the word about Toronto Mad Pride Week 2016

And, of course, come out to the events and join in the fun July 11th-17th!

Your contributions will help achieve our shared goals and build your organization’s profile in mental health and community building. Partners and contributors will be acknowledged through posters, event signage, website and social media channels.

Please support Mad Pride 2016, supported by, and a project of, Sound Times Support Services of Metropolitan Toronto, (charitable status #133639187RP0001).

Help us make Mad Pride Week 2016 an outstanding event and support our goal of ending the stigma against mental illness and celebrating our Mad Pride.

Thank you,


Mad Pride Planning Group

280 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A 3A4   @madpridetoronto   

Peer Respites – Crisis Care Driven by Peers

Are things are out of control. Are they going to lock me up in hospital? Peer respites may provide an alternative – voluntary, peer and relationship based, trauma-informed and person-centred space for support.Peer Respites

Peer respites are voluntary, short-term, overnight programs. They provide community-based, trauma-informed, and person-centered crisis support and prevention 24 hours per day in a homelike environment.

The image of the “crazy” guy going postal at work causes fear about asking for help. And this fear is even more intense when things are too much for “talk” therapy or workplace peer support. In these times, peer respites can provide an alternative to hospitalization. The premise behind peer respites is that psychiatric emergency services can be avoided if less coercive or intrusive supports are available in the community.

Picture of people holding hands

Supporting hands – working together

Peer respites are voluntary, trauma-informed and based on peer support principles:

  • Peer respites engage guests in mutual, trusting relationships with peer staff.
  • Individuals help themselves and others through fostering relationships and engaging in advocacy to empower people to participate in their communities.
  • More information about peer respite resources

Peer respites are particularly appealing to people who have been detained in hospitals and involuntarily treated. These experiences can be traumatizing because of power imbalances.

They are still quite alternative and not available in Ontario. They are available in many states in the USA (New England, California, Ohio, Georgia and more). If awareness grows, they may provide a way to avoid the fiscal and emotional costs of hospitalization. Peer respites face resistance:

  • They do not fit within a medical model of mental illness.
  • They could present liability concerns for governments and insurers.
  • They are not “professional” or credentialed like a hospital.

However, these objections also apply to peer support. There are more discussions and debate needed.logo

In Toronto, the Gerstein Centre provides crisis services in an alternative setting by peers and non-peers. They also have a warm-line (416-929-5200) to call when things are difficult but you are not at risk of self-harm or extreme distress. Accessing resources like this can help manage crisis and even help prepare for your hospitalization. (What hospital prep? Just like working with a peer and a therapist preparation and learning before going to hospital helps cope with the fear and makes better use of time).


National Empowerment Center

Directory of Peer-run Crisis Services –

A Peer-Run Respite indicates that peers oversee, staff, and operate the respite at all levels and that at least 51% of the Board of Directors identifies as peers.

A Hybrid indicates that although the respite is attached to a traditional provider organization and/or the Board of Directors is comprised of less than half peers, the director and staff of the respite do identify as peers.

Peer Respite –

Workplace: Peer support at the SHRC

The Self-Help Resource Centre not only facilitates and promotes peer support in the community, it also practices peer support in the workplace. Peer support hasSelf-Help Resource Centre
The SHRC helps people find support groups through its massive database. It also facilitates peer support groups in the community, in schools and universities.
To be able to acknowledge my own challenges as a leader has made me better at it, and the solidarity that our team shares as we work towards a common goal is felt very strongly. Our organization is healthier for it, as am I.

Chrystal Dean, executive director of the SHRC, answered my informal questions about the powerful peer work the SHRC is doing.  Continue reading

Peer Support is Official – MHCC

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is a mouthful of experts, acronyms and data. It has studied and created standards for Peer Support and has found that:

Papers fly - It is official - peer support works - celebrate

It is official – celebrate

Peer support works. Empowerment and the development of personal resourcefulness — the foundation of peer support — not only improves people’s lives but also saves money by reducing the use of more formal mental health, medical, and social services. – See more

Do I really need official proof that Peer Support Works? Continue reading

Who supports the Peer Supporters

Peer worker, support thyself

Helping people is a fantastic way to find meaning and human connection. Peer support facilitators/workers have all benefited from support in their journeys. But what happens when emotional stress overwhelms and peer supporters are pushed to their limits?

Wrecked ship in the desert - isolation is dangerous.

Don’t be a lone ship in a desert – isolation is dangerous for peer supporters. via

Continue reading

Act Now: Peer Support – Stéphane Grenier

Today is a good time to move from “let’s talk” to “let’s do peer support”. In a recent chat, Stéphane Grenier, of Mental Health Innovation Consulting (MHIC), shared his lessons and insights about the power and value of peer support in the workplace.

Picture of Stéphane Grenier Lt. Col (ret’d) Stephane Grenier MSC, CD, LLD - Principal Founder & Lead Innovator at Mental Health Innovations

Stéphane Grenier Lt. Col (ret’d) MSC, CD, LLD – Grenier battles with PTSD which changed him from a soldier into a champion for mental health. He’s the founder of peer support accreditation and certification ( Canada) and president of Mental Health Innovations. (John Kenney / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

Peer supporters are not just friends or therapists.

Peer supporters help their peers face challenges head on by sharing experiences to empower them to find their own answers. Boundaries are important at work. For example, if a co-worker needs money, a friend might give it out of obligation and friendship. A therapist definitely wouldn’t because of professional rules. Peer supporters would maintain boundaries to not give money; however, they would be there with the person, to share experiences and to help the co-worker develop options that will ensure their needs are met.

Peer support builds upon a human connection…

Continue reading

Laughing at madness!

Who would laugh at depression, trauma, and work disaster? Are you a monster! Well…Sometimes the best way to deal with the worst is to laugh in its face.

Sad pie face

Throwing pies even when you are having a bad day.

And learning about telling jokes is a great way to face the bad stuff and maybe chuck a few pies!

The Laughing Like Crazy program brings together people facing work,  mental, and emotional challenges to create comedy out of personal experiences. I was lucky enough to participate in 2014…and …I did not die from speaking in public. Yet… Continue reading