Your donation lets us explore new ways to provide care to those experiencing mental health challenges

A youth finds his voice for others
group of people gather around a computer
From left to right (with MINDS role): Lily Yosieph (youth researcher), Alec Cook (youth researcher), Dr. Arlene MacDougall (Director), and Melissa Taylor-Gates (Innovation and Evaluation Manager)

From a young age, Alec Cook wrestled with social anxiety. At 12 he began seeing a therapist. But when he started high school, his panic attacks were so encompassing that he would miss days of school. 

Instead of allowing his anxiety to take control of his life, he took control of the situation and joined a youth mental health and addictions council. 

In this council, Alec met Dr. Arlene MacDougall, Director and Principal Investigator of MINDS. Alec says he was instantly inspired by the work she was doing. He learned about a new youth mental health initiative she is leading called, the Mental Health Incubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS), and quickly signed up for a co-op spot. 

Research shows that youth (16-25) are more likely to experience mental illness or addiction than any other group in our community. But only 20% of them actually get the treatment they need – and most only receive care once they reach a crisis point, such as experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Today, Alec is one of the youth researchers on the MINDS team, and is studying psychology at Western University. Along with clinical researchers and community partners, Alec is now looking at ways to redesign the mental health care system to support young people and help them access the care they desperately need.  

MINDS is the first social innovation lab focused on mental health care in Canada. This bold new initiative would not have been possible without donor support, which helped to launch and sustain it.

“It’s comforting knowing that MINDS now exists to help youth like me,” says Alec. “Thank you to the donors who made it possible.”

A Father’s Journey

Doug Harris with a group of people under a pavilion
Doug Harris surrounded by family, friends and staff at St. Joseph’s in support of For the Love of Kate I Ride.

Doug Harris may be your average dad, but he did something extraordinary last year to honour his daughter, Kate, who tragically died by suicide in 2016.

Through an initiative he called, “For the Love of Kate, I Ride”, Doug raised more than $25,000 for Zero Suicide – a St. Joseph’s mental health care initiative – by riding his bike over 2,000 km from London, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The route was a symbolic journey from where his daughter was born to where the 32-year-old had lived and worked as a Canadian Military Reservist.

“I knew from the start that Kate's story could not end with her death,” writes Doug on his website For the Love of Kate I Ride. 

Doug writes: “As her Dad, I was blind to her struggles with mental health. She would occasionally touch on it, but I had no idea what was lurking just below the surface. Outwardly, she was just too strong, happy and generous for me to understand her struggle.”
To honour his daughter and help others, Doug raised vital funds for Zero Suicide. St. Joseph’s became the first health care organization in Canada to adopt this system-wide initiative. Zero Suicide aims to prevent suicide in the health care system by providing people with the help and protection they need before they reach a crisis point.

Today, the initiative is fully-funded through donor support, which brings the goal of reducing the number of deaths by suicide to zero, one step closer. 

Writes Doug: “Innovative projects like Zero Suicide aren't possible without our support.” 

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