On 4 February 2014, youth from the local community were invited to a talk shop at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) Youth Centre. Seven youth along with two TNO Youth Centre’s staff discussed various concerns with lead facilitator Kerisha Bascon, an Everest College student focusing on mental health and addictions within the community.

Photo Courtesy of Khadija Aziz

Attendees of the talk shop; missing one youth. Photo courtesy of Khadija Aziz

All discussed topics were being recorded and would be passed on to Curtis Nash, the youth centre’s coordinator, who will then pass it on to the rest of TNO and finally the local agencies.

After ice breakers were used to create a friendly and welcoming environment, the first topic discussed was labelling oneself. Youth discussed how they view themselves based on their culture, religion, sexual orientation, age, and ethnicity. They also discussed whether they would repeat their family values – specifically their parents’ parenting style – to their own children. Most answered that they wouldn’t.

They then discussed issues they encounter at home, at school, in the workplace, and in the community. Some major topics were curfews at home and the difficulty of trusting teachers at school. It was suggested that students politely speak for themselves to their teachers if they feel they’re being treated unfairly by them.

Everybody agreed that a large issue within the community was lack of participation at events, especially by youth.

Although TNO Youth Centre hands out flyers and does an outreach on their Facebook page, attendance has been an issue. Some solutions were more active outreach to local schools, assigning a youth volunteer to create appealing advertisements, and having youth-run programs.

When discussing healthy relationships, trust and communication were key words. Kerisha stated that because of advanced technology, youth have a different style of a “bonding time” and of expressing themselves through actions.

For example, it is easier to text “I love you” with a heart beside it than to actually spend time with friends. However, somebody pointed out that one may be judged, especially if he is male, for being too “sensitive”.

Lastly, mental health issues in “regular people” versus celebrities were discussed. Celebrities, who are open about having a diagnosed mental illness have more resources and support from many people. For other people, it is hard to even admit to having a mental illness. However, it was accepted that both celebrities and non-celebrities will suffer from stigma.

In the end, all youth completed a survey and listed opportunities and programs they would like to receive from the centre.

The TNO Youth Centre can be found on Facebook or students can visit them at East York Town Centre Unit 108 located at 45 Overlea Blvd, from 3 PM to 7 PM from Monday to Friday and 11 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays. A wide variety of programs and opportunities are offered and free access to a computer is also available. Youth may also update themselves with current job and volunteering opportunities through the TNO Youth Centre.