I took a deep breath and picked up the phone. I held my breath when someone on the other end of Bell Let’s Talk answered the phone. I had a dream in my heart to do a conference on Bell Let’s Talk Day and I wanted their support.
It blew me away when they said, “Of course we would love to support that idea!”
I started to pull together some of the best speakers I could think of. I was delighted when all of them said, “Yes!”, but as I continued to plan the conference, something felt off. Something was missing.
You see I had just spoke at a school on their mental health day when a grade 8 girl came up to me and stated, “You speakers are all the same. You say the same thing over and over again. Guess what? We’re not listening.” I was blown away by this girl. She wasn’t being cheeky, she was being brutally honest out of frustration from hearing the same message over and over and seeing nothing change.
I started questioning what we normally do: getting speakers to speak on mental health while an audience listens. If this was working, wouldn’t things be different? And if this isn’t the answer, what is? The conference was already advertised. How was this conference going to make a real difference?
I started to notice certain aspects of our culture creating real gaps that I wanted to fix. The gaps I saw were:
Isolation in the work
I began to think of many of my friends working in non profit organizations that were struggling for funding and working so hard to make a difference in their sector. I remember a couple of years ago brought a bunch of non profit leaders together over lunch. All of them emailed me afterwards saying how refreshing it was to come together to meet others in the sector and to connect. I began to wonder what a conference would look like that would bring together not only the non profit sector, but my teacher and mental health care worker friends struggling with burnout, youth tired of hearing another mental health message, and business owners wanting to create better cultures of wellness in their companies.
I thought to myself, “What would happen if ALL of these groups of people came together out of their isolated silos to talk? What synergy and change could that possibly create?”
I found out at the conference, apparently A LOT.
The need to connect on a deeper level
My resilience work is entirely built around the idea of interpersonal neurobiology: the idea that we highly affect one another. I believe strongly in people having room to share their personal stories because when you share your story to someone who is empathetic and attuned to you, your brain literally gets REWIRED! It’s a beautiful phenomenon.
This got me thinking, “What if we hosted a conference where EVERYONE got to speak, not just a select few?” This got me really excited, but i wasn’t sure how we were going to make this work. It was a risk with a few bumps but we pulled it off. Every single person at our conference got to share with others what mental health looks like from their context or what they were doing to impact mental health. What came out of those conversations was the realization that we need more connection. It is remarkable when people come together. We really can change the world when we come to the table with others.
There’s innovation everywhere and no one knows about it
As I advertised the conference I received email after email from people creating some pretty innovative solutions around mental health. They all wanted to share their stories. I was pleased to share with them that everyone would have the opportunity to share at this conference. Many were delighted to hear this, some unfortunately chose not to come unless they were paid or given a specific platform. This grieved my heart because what they had to share with others was needed and valuable. I think it’s a great tragedy when we put our need to be the most important in the room above the need to not only share but listen to others as well and learn. I’ve secretly given our conference the tag line, “If you need to be the most important person in the room, you probably shouldn’t come.”
This year I was thinking how to bring more awareness to organizations and people who are creating wonderful things in the area of mental health. I decided that this year every registrant will be able to write a short blurb about what they are doing, include a website and it would be emailed to all registrants before the event so people could already know about the amazing things people are doing before the event begins. Imagine the synergy that will be in the room right from the start?!
I am very excited about this year’s conference and what we call the Incubator will reveal about what we are saying collectively. We are also expanding to Vancouver and Edmonton this year! The big dream is to see a Let’s Talk Hope conference on Bell Let’s Talk Day in EVERY city in Canada. The best part? Each conference is done for the locals BY the locals. The one thing to unite every conference: The Incubator where everyone gets to speak.
I hope you can join us in one of these cities.
Click here for Calgary.
Click here for Edmonton.
Click here for Vancouver.
And please click here if you would like to host a Let’s Talk Hope conference in your city for 2021!
Mental health is created SOCIALLY. I hope you will come together at the table to talk hope this January with us.
The YouTube version of this blog can be found here