Published on April 8th, 2015 | from CAMH
(above: Ashley Smith, MSW, and Craig Currah present to a group of students.)
By Craig Currah, Recreationist, Partial Hospital Program
A few weeks ago, CAMH received a concerned inquiry about a new program with a potentially stigmatizing name, which we were offering at the hospital. At first, I thought nothing of it – until I realized that this “new” program was actually one that I have been helping to facilitate! So before any further misunderstanding, let me explain the name and the program in a bit more detail. After all, its purpose is to dispel any myths by talking and sharing.
Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest (BTCN) first took flight in 1987 as an innovative mental health awareness, anti-stigma, wellness initiative geared towards high school students. Given that 70% of adult mental health and addiction issues have their onset in childhood and adolescence, nurse case managers were inspired to reach out to youth in Ontario high schools with the hope of sparking meaningful conversations about these critical issues.
The name “Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest” was inspired by the award-winning movie and novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which portrayed individual, personal struggles to see each other as people, not labels or diagnoses. This was in contrast to the movie’s depiction of an oppressive, stigmatizing environment that did not support personalized care and recovery. Our name pays homage towards creating safe, healing spaces for all, by asking students to move beyond the stigmatizing portrayal of the 1975 film (hence the name!). This 2 hour workshop continues today as CAMH’s longest-standing educational outreach program to high schoolers.
BTCN strives to create meaningful discussions around mental health and addiction issues such as reaching out to a friend, getting help, identifying early warning signs. This is done through the use of multimedia platforms, interactive activities and polls, and group discussions. Each session includes narrative stories shared by people with lived experience – the program is unique in that it is co-facilitated by front-line interprofessional clinicians and people with first-hand mental health and addiction experience. These conversations aim to get young people talking, thinking and acting on ways to confront and dismantle stigma, how they can maintain their wellness, and how they make positive changes in their communities and in social media.
BTCN perfectly embodies CAMH Values of courage, respect and excellence. The strength of the program lies in the courage of the co-educators to open themselves up to the audience by inviting them to share their private world and to guide the young participants into the co-educators’ own personal recovery journey. Respect is inherent in this program. This is constantly demonstrated in the respectful collaboration within the interprofessional team, between the clinicians and the co-educators; respect for the commitment and contributions of each member; respect for the importance of the message being delivered and the inclusion of diversity lens in the presentation.
The earned respect that BTCN has garnered through the years from Ontario high schools is further evident in the continued rise in the requests from schools to attend this program. Achieving excellence in anti-stigma public education, outreach and the promotion of mental health awareness are key mandate of this program.
BTCN is a valuable resource to the educational system and to individuals. It assists by augmenting the mental health curriculum, and supports the responsibility of community members to initiate and sustain these important conversations around mental health & addiction issues.
In 2013, with the expansion of the Emergency Department and reconstruction of the auditorium, BTCN was relocated to the revitalized Queen St. Site giving students an opportunity to view a mental health treatment centre from both a historical and 21st century lens. BTCN has come a long way in its 28 years from its overhead projector slides. Technological, societal, and health care developments have continued to inform how this program evolves, such as with the use of a Prezi presentation and social media, and we’re not finished innovating. BTCN has future developments in mind, such as resources and downloadable tools to further augment mental health curriculum in schools. Stay tuned for more developments!
We look forward to sharing these developments in the future. But for now, we invite you to spread the word. Help us move beyond the stigma by promoting understanding and education about mental health. For more information about BTCN – and to register your school for a workshop, please contact Wanetta Doucette-Goodman at (416) 535-8501 x. 34969