For youth

The have THAT talk series was developed to help individuals have important conversations and take action to improve mental health and wellness. Those that work with youth are encouraged to use the videos and accompanying guides to have THAT talk about mental health and wellness.

We hope the videos and activities will help you and the youth to:

  • Be more comfortable talking about mental health
  • Learn ways to improve mental health
  • Know where to get help and resources for mental health

How to Talk About Your Mental Health

Talking about mental health can be hard for some people. Learn safe ways to talk about your own mental health or illnesses and how to support others sharing their challenges with you.

How to Talk About Your Mental Health Activty Guide

Did you know that 42% of Canadians were not sure if they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness? We also know that the sooner someone gets help, the better their outcome.

 How to Talk About Your Mental Health Activity Guide (PDF) 2MB


Think about a time when you had good news to share with someone...maybe you did well at school or your manager recognized your hard work. Who did you share this with?

We like to share good news with those we care about and trust, but many of us find  it hard to tell someone if we are not doing so well. This can be especially true for those of us living with mental health challenges or illnesses.

In fact, 42% of Canadians were not sure if they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness!

So you can see the impact that stigma can have on us talking about our mental health. Some even said the stigma can be even worse than the illness itself...

...and this stigma can prevent people from getting help early or even at all, and can limit the supports people need to get better. 

Let's look at an example:

This is Juan

Juan has been worrying a lot lately and is feeling very stressed. He's not sleeping well and is feeling really sad. He doesn't want to tell his family or friends because he thinks they won't understand. So he has been keeping his feelings to himself for months and things are getting worse.

Luckily, Juan's friend Marco has noticed changes in Juan and asks "Hey ....what's going on, you haven't been yourself lately, how ya doing?"

Juan trusts Marco because he's been there for him in the past. He feels Marco is a safe person to talk to, so he shares how badly he's feeling. Marco listens and tells Juan that he is there for him.

After some research, Marco suggests that they call a distress center line to get more information on what to do next, and where more help is available

Unfortunately, not everyone has a friend like Marco...and because of stigma, we don't always treat mental health challenges the same as we do physical health challenges.  

Think about the last time you weren't feeling well physically, like when you had a fever that didn't go away, or you sprained your ankle........

What did you do?

You probably told someone close to you and went to get it checked out right away!

Just like physical health challenges... we need to treat our mental health in the same way!

It's important to talk to a professional if you are having challenges with your mental health. Getting support EARLY can help us stay mentally healthy or prevent our mental health challenges from getting worse.

When going through mental health challenges or illness, it also helps to talk about how you are doing with the people you love and trust so they can support you.

You don't HAVE to share with others, but it can really help to have positive supports in your life when going through difficult times.

It is up to you if and when  you will share.

If you do share REMEMBER, some people may not respond the way you want them to. Some communities and families NEVER talk about mental health.

Some people might even be mean to you. This can be especially true if you talk about your struggles on social media. People can be mean out there! Make sure you are in a good place and ready before you share or post anything online.....and remember, if you need help but don't know where to go, call a distress centre line as there are ALWAYS professionals who can help you.

Once you feel you are in a safe place and want to share, how do you start?

Well, start by picking people you really trust.

Ask them if you can share something with them

Tell them how you are feeling.

You don't have to share everything at once...

if the person responds in a positive way.... you can always share more and talk to them again.

If the person doesn't respond well, think about who else may be a safe person to share with.

And if someone shares their concerns with you, you don't have to know all the answers...or give any answers, in fact it's best to just listen, be supportive and encourage them to get help.

If you are concerned about their safety or your safety, call 911 or your local distress line.

Think about some things you can do that would make you feel more comfortable to start talking about your own mental health, or things you can do if someone shares their mental health challenges with you.

Write these things down so you can go back to them when you need them...... 

For more info and resources on mental health and mental illnesses ...and when and where to get help.... check out

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health with support from Bell Let's Talk

Reducing Stigma

The stigma around mental illnesses can keep people from getting the help they need and keep people from supporting each other through difficult times. Everyone can help to reduce stigma in our community. Get some ideas about how we can all help decrease stigma.

Reducing Stigma Activity Guide

Stigma is a set of negative beliefs and prejudices about a group of people, as well as negative behaviors towards groups of people. Many people face stigma because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, economic situation and a variety of other things.

 Reducing Stigma Activty Guide (PDF) 2MB


Have you ever felt left out or judged by people because they thought you were different from them?

Maybe you've been discriminated against?

How did this affect you?

Maybe you felt misunderstood...embarrassed, alone, or even afraid?

That is what stigma might feel like.

So what is stigma?

Stigma is a set of negative beliefs, and prejudices, about a group of people Stigma also includes negative behaviors towards groups of people. Many people face stigma because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender, economic situation and a variety of other things.

People living with mental illnesses often face stigma and discrimination. This can make them feel ashamed, hopeless, distressed, reluctant to get help or accept help and feel like they are to blame for their illness.

In fact, almost half of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behavior, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who has a serious mental illness.

Why do some people think this way?

Well...many years ago, mental illnesses were not well understood. We didn't know how mental illnesses influenced a person's brain or affected their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

People with mental illnesses were not treated with the support they needed, and were considered outcasts or even dangerous.

To end stigma, people need to understand and accept that mental illnesses are like any other health conditions and need the right treatment. 

We would never say to someone "just think positively and your diabetes will go away"   But how many times have you heard "try to be happy...think positively...don't be so depressed. You have so many good things in your life."

Let's look at an example of how stigma can hurt someone.

Stephan is a first year university student. He likes his program and has some new friends.  

However, Stephan feels stressed and overwhelmed by all of his schoolwork and being away from home. He is not feeling like himself and most days he doesn't want to get out of bed. He's afraid his friends will think he's weak if he tells them ...and he doesn't want anyone seeing him at the clinic so he doesn't reach out for help on campus...

His feelings get worse...and he's having a hard time staying in school.

Like with Stephan, the stigma people experience often prevents them from getting help and support from family, friends and professionals.

We know from research that the sooner someone gets help, the better the outcome will be. This is true for all health conditions, including mental illnesses. can we reduce stigma and help people like Stephan? 

  1. Think about your own feelings about mental illnesses. Do you have biases or judge people?
  2. Be aware of language: avoid using words that can be hurtful like "psycho" or "crazy"....
  3. Think about and discuss what you see in the media: How people with mental illnesses are shown in the media is not always accurate or fair...
  4. Learn more about mental illnesses: check out trusted websites like the Canadian Mental Health Association or Bell Let's Talk
  5. Explore opportunities for relationships with people in your life who have mental health challenges and illnesses.

After watching this video, make a list of ways you can help yourself and your communities become more accepting of all people including those of us living with mental illness.

Think about one thing you can do now to help reduce stigma around mental illness?

It could be a small thing like not using hurtful and labeling words...

It could be reaching out to someone who you think might be struggling and encouraging them to get help...

It could be sharing your own experience living with a mental illness with someone you trust...if that feels comfortable and safe for you.

All of these things help reduce stigma and keep it from stopping others...and ourselves...from getting help when needed.

For more info and resources on stigma, check out

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health with support from Bell Let's Talk.

Building Resilience

Being resilient is good for our mental health because it helps us recover and work through challenges in a positive way. You can learn resilience skills at any time. Check out ways to build your resilience or help others build their resilience.

Building Resilience Activity Guide

Everyone experiences stress or challenges as part of life. Resilience is being able to work through life’s difficulties, thrive and reach your full potential. It is about accepting that life is not always perfect but finding ways to deal with and work through your challenges and recover afterwards.

 Building Resilience Activity Guide (PDF) 3MB


Think of a challenging time in your life.

Maybe you had a problem at school...or work...or with your partner.

Maybe you were under a lot of financial stress...

Did you find it hard to get through this time?

What helped you move forward?

Being able to work through life's challenges in a positive way is called being resilient.

Resilience is about being able to cope through challenging times...and recover afterwards.

It helps us to thrive and reach our full potential - even when times are tough and it can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed by a challenge and using the experience as something to learn from.

Resilience doesn't come from having a perfect life. It doesn't mean we always have to be happy. In fact, it's normal to feel sad or angry during tough situations.

Resilience is more about how we move forward through the challenges and deal with them successfully!

Sounds like a good thing ...right?

It is! In fact, research shows that being resilient helps us recover from illness faster, live longer, and do better in our daily activities. It also helps us to have happier, healthier relationships. 

The good news is that we can all practice skills to be more resilient and to help others be resilient too.

Being resilient is not just something you are born with .....or without. It's something we can ALL work on over time! We can even help teach our family these skills. Improving our resilience skills helps protect us against mental health challenges and illnesses in the future.

Let's look at an example.

This is Jennifer.

Jennifer has been having a hard time lately and is feeling stressed and upset.

Her mom isn't well, she has some major bills she didn't expect this month and her dog Shilo passed away a couple of weeks ago.

So, what are some things that Jennifer can do to help her through this hard time?

Well, she can think about things that helped her cope in the past.

She knows that  ...

  • being active
  • listening to her favorite music,
  • and spending time with her friends and family helps her feel  better

She can also think about good things in her life ... like her relationship with her partner. She can think of solutions for some of the things she has control over...maybe she can work some extra shifts to help with the bills.

Jennifer should also know that talking to a health care professional is always a good idea when going through difficult times.

One of the best parts about resilience that It is never too early or too late to start practicing!

So, let's recap some proven ways to build and maintain resilience ...


  • Knowing your strengths
  • Thinking of things that you are grateful for
  • Being able to find solutions to challenging situations
  • Being OK with not doing everything perfectly
  • Practicing deep breathing and meditation or mindfulness.
  • Asking friends, family or a health care professional for help.
  • Letting your kids work through challenges and supporting them as they  learn how to deal with their struggles
  • And of course eating healthy, having healthy hobbies, getting enough sleep and spending time with your loved ones help us all.
  • Like Jennifer, we can all benefit from these tips when we are going through challenges...and we can even pass them onto others when they are going through difficult times.

So now....think about the things that helped you with a challenging period in your life.

What new things could you do next time that would be help?

Write these things you can go back to the list to when you need it.

Try one thing this week that you can do to build on and maintain resilience in your life!

For more info and resources on resilience check out

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health with support from Bell Let's Talk.

Building Social Connections

Connecting with people we care about is an important way to protect and improve our mental health. Find out ways to improve your connections or make new ones.

Building Social Connections Activity Guide
Social connections are the relationships we have with the people around us. The relationships we have at school, work, in leisure and at home affect our physical and mental health. Good social connections help build our resilience, improve our physical and mental health and help us cope with the stresses of life.

 Building Social Connections Activity Guide (PDF) 1MB


Think of the last time you spent time with family...or friends...or people you care about...

How did this make you feel?

Being connected with people in your life helps you feel like you even helps reduce stress, boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and can lengthen your life.

In fact, people with strong social support are usually happier, have better mental health, and feel a stronger sense of belonging in their community.

Unfortunately.... people who feel alone or isolated often have poor health.

In fact, new research has shown that not having social relationships can shorten our lives as much as smoking over 100 cigarettes per week.

But......the good news is that we can all do things to change this and to help ourselves and others feel more connected.

Let's look at an example.

This is Sammy. He just moved to a new city and does not have any family there. Because his new job takes up a lot of his time, he hasn't made any close friends yet. He comes home from work most days and spends time by himself watching TV or on his computer....he misses having his family around....and is starting to feel a little more sad and tired each day.

So what can Sammy do to get better connected with others?

Sammy can start by:

Getting out and exploring his new neighborhood...maybe he can check out his  community centre to see what activities they have

He can have lunch or go for a walk with his new co-workers... 

Sammy loves cycling but doesn't know the area. He could visit a bike shop to see if there are neighborhood bike groups or look online for a bike group to join.

Volunteering is another great way to get connected in your community. He could check out Volunteer Canada, the local newspaper or local agencies to see where volunteer help is needed.

Like most of us, there may be a time when Sammy needs a little more help. When moving to a new city, recovering from an illness or going through a life change - calling someone you trust or talking to a health professional can really help.

If available, Sammy could get support from his employee assistance program at work or call 2-1-1 to find out about programs and resources for support.

The reality is that we all need people in our life during good times and during tough times. 

Make sure to reach out when you need help, be open to accept help when it is offered and help others in return.

So now, try to think about something you can do to make your connections stronger.

Are there people in your life or groups that you could reach out to?

How about others in your community who would benefit from more connections?

Could you offer to make a meal for a new parent or caregiver, or maybe a neighbor who is having a tough time?

Write all of your ideas down and pick one thing you can do this week to get more connected or to help others get more connected.

Even small holding the door for someone; taking out the garbage for your neighbor....bringing food to someone in need...

These all can lead to big changes that can improve your connections, your physical health and your mental health.

For more info and resources on building social connectedness check out

Brought to you by Ottawa Public Health with support from Bell Let's Talk.

have THAT talk Youth Activity Guide

Welcome to the have THAT talk Youth Activity Guide.  To access the complete guide, click on the button below.

have THAT talk Youth Activity Guide (PDF) 7MB

Youth Connections Ottawa

Youth Connections Ottawa (YCO) is a peer-to-peer program which aims to contribute to positive mental health and substance use health of Ottawa youth. YCO aims to meaningfully engage youth to enhance their knowledge of mental health and increase positive behaviours and strategies for wellbeing.

Visit the Youth Engagement webpage for more information.

Where to find help

If anyone is in crisis, please contact:

For additional mental health support and resources for parents and caregiverschildren and youth.

For more resources available in Ottawa, please visit our Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources web page.

Contact Us