If you want to attend The Women’s Mental Health & Leadership Conference, click here! If you want to learn more about Women’s Mental Health Talks at York University or attend a support group, click here!
Shalyn Isaacs, a psychology student at York University, felt that her campus lacked a space to connect with women about important issues like mental health. This pushed her to develop Women’s Mental Health Talks (WMHT) in 2016. WMHT is a club at York University, where women can come together and share their own experiences surrounding mental health and open up about issues that specifically impact women: “I would describe it as an organization that strives to give women an accepting, non-judgemental space,” says Isaacs. WMHT hosts bi-weekly support groups where women can go and share their struggles and triumphs and also learn important life skills. WMHT is designed for women to connect not only with each other but with themselves. Isaacs later adds: “It’s an organization that gives women the opportunity to figure out different coping strategies they can use to enhance their mental health, self-confidence, and leadership skills.”
Photo of Shalyn Isaacs
Shalyn Isaacs, President of Women’s Mental Health Talks at York University
WMHT started with bi-weekly support groups but over the course of its short existence, WMHT has impressively expanded to hosting large events on campus. “It has just been improving and getting better every single year, we are reaching more students all the time,” says Isaacs. Last year WMHT held the first-ever Mental Health Open Mic Night at York University. The event allowed people to express their mental health experiences through artistic mediums like singing, dancing, spoken word, art and stand-up comedy. Isaacs recalls the event, “It was a really beautiful evening and you receive so much support from the attendees as well.”
Photo by Alex Sorto
This year WMHT is hosting another large-scale event that will be held on February 11th. It is called, The Women’s Mental Health & Leadership Conference. The conference centers around mental health, and its impact on women becoming the powerful leaders that they’re meant to be. There are amazing speakers that will be discussing their mental health issues, as well as, workshops that are designed to teach women how to unlock their leadership potential. Isaacs discusses the conference in more detail:
Through the speakers and workshops, we want to raise awareness around what strategies women can use to cope with mental health caused by different systemic factors, and how they can challenge gender inequality in leadership roles. How did they get leadership roles? And how to have resilience and confidence in their leadership role.
It is a free event, but spots are limited so if you are interested in attending this impactful event please RSVP by clicking here!
Photo via Women’s Mental Health Talks
As well as, The Women’s Mental Health & Leadership Conference, WMHT has support groups coming up that could really benefit every woman. The support groups consist of a general topic, support group facilitators that have mental health training, ASIST SafeTalk training and sexual violence training and the WMHT training. The facilitators lead the group discussions, but the attendees primarily choose where the conversation goes. If someone just wants to sit in and watch, that is okay too. It is an informal and welcoming place where women can connect and grow. Isaacs shares what she has noticed over the years of being the President of WMHT:
There are a lot of regular/repeat members that come to the support groups and you can see at the beginning of the year they have a lower sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and through connecting with other women, and seeking guidance and advice over the course of a year, they become more confident in themselves, they become more outspoken, and more open with sharing their lives with other people.
Photo by Yuri Levin
On February 25th, WMHT is hosting a support group with the topic: Sexuality and Sexual Health, which will address issues surrounding growing up as women and the different ideologies that are ingrained in us at such a young age. Isaacs discusses the topic in more detail:
That conversation goes very deep because our sexuality is such a core part of who we are, and if we are told from the time we are young that women need to be shamed because we have desires and we are sexual beings, it takes such a toll on our mental health because I think women experience a lot of shame, a lot of anxiety.
This support group also tackles difficult discussions about sexual violence and harassment. Sexual violence survivors can come and feel safe to talk and connect with others that have been through similar situations. Attendees will receive a lot of compassion and empathy during the two-hour support group, as well as coping strategies.
Photo via Women’s Mental Health Talks
On March 11, there is a support group titled, Women’s Workplace Mental Health, this is a time where women can come together and discuss the struggles that they have had in the workplace. This support group will bring up sensitive topics surrounding the workplace like sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and bullying. There will also be advice shared on how to handle a difficult boss/situation, or how to leave a toxic workplace. “The topic is largely about bringing awareness to how often women can experience intimidation and gender inequality in the workplace,” says Isaacs.
The Women’s Mental Health Talks team is filled with passionate people who want to create an empowering space on campus for women. Isaacs created it so that women can learn the tools to cope with difficult situations and to challenge the intricate systems that make it hard for women to experience emotional well-being.
Check out their Facebook page for more information!
If you want to attend the Women’s Mental Health & Leadership Conference, click here!