Women unmask wellness and mental health in the workplace at Journeys to Success event

Women unmask wellness and mental health in the workplace at Journeys to Success event

December 10, 2018

​To unmask, or the unveiling of one’s true self, allows an individual to be open and show their true nature or character. Unmasking can create a sense of vulnerability, but it can also be enlightening and inspiring.

Two older women wearing a masks to cover their faces.

Unmasking wellness in the workplace with a focus on how women can maintain their wellness and mental health was the theme of Toronto Community Housing’s (TCHC) 2018 Journeys to Success event. This year, close to 100 women from across the city had the opportunity to unmask challenges they face and to celebrate the accomplishments of the everyday woman. 

“It is important as women that we take the time to notice and celebrate each other,” said Nadia Gouveia, Manager of Economic Development at Toronto Community Housing. “I encourage women today and moving forward to share positivity, love and support.”

Above: Wendy Wendy Souza, ReAct Youth Program Coordinator at Metrac kicks off the event with opening remarks.

Toronto Community Housing has hosted the annual Journeys to Success since 2013. The event creates a safe space where women can empower and celebrate those who make a positive impact in the community. 

“It is the opportunity for everyday women to take off their mask they carry and to talk about the challenges they overcome and how they are resilient in their own lives,” said Wendy De Souza, ReAct Youth Program Coordinator at Metrac. 

Above: Women from the Journeys to Success event in discuss wellness in the workplace. 

“Over the years, Journeys to Success has expanded to celebrate female resiliency and survivorship, while preserving the celebratory spirit of female empowerment and mentorship,” Wendy added.  

The 2018 Journeys to Success event was delivered on November 18 in partnership with Metrac, the City of Toronto, Reach Out Together, Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, CBI Health Group and Springboard. 

Making “you” a priority

This year’s event consisted of a female panel moderated by Stefany Hanson, Manager of Youth Development at the City of Toronto, and a keynote address from Aanchal Vash, Human Potential Success Trainer and Founder and CEO of Reach Out Together. 

Above: Female panel (from left to right: Karen Brown, Michelle Caneo, Deqa Nur, Cola Bennet and Stefany Hanson) share their experiences about mental health and wellness in the workplace. 

The female panel shared their stories and experiences of how work has affected their mental and physical health, but also helped to shape them in improving their self-care.  

Panelist Karen Brown shared that her nature to go beyond at work has negatively affected her physical and mental health. She has worked in the social services for more than two decades supporting women and children in the shelters. 

“Where people work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I would usually work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” said Karen. She mentioned that she still worked even at home. “Eventually, started to feel overworked and got sick. Instead of focusing on my health, I tried to push through it.” 

The biggest advice Karen could give to females is not to ignore their health and make their self-care it a priority.

“You are indispensable, you are replaceable, but what about your health? You can go to work and give 1000 per cent, but what do you get back in term of your mental and physical health?” 

Panelist Cola Bennet is an entrepreneur who runs a skin care line. Cola said that she has to create the opportunity to maintain self-care herself.

“Working 24/7 is how I get paid. If I do not work, then I do not get paid,” said Cola. 
Over time, she learned keep time for herself. “I take the limits off my expectations,” said Cola. “I do not force myself to get it all done in one day and to pace myself.” 

Knowing when to ask for help 

Panelist and boxer Michelle Caneo spoke of how it can be hard for women to ask for help. 

“I didn’t have much support in my life and I know what is like to do everything on your own,” said Michelle. As a result, she confessed that experienced burnouts from overworking herself. 

“It is important to find that support circle,” Michelle shared to the group. “There are good people out there, and I found mine in the thing I love the most, boxing.” 

Panelist and Tenant Leader Deqa Nur is a mother of three works and goes at York University full-time. Sometimes it is difficult, she said, to manage taking care of her children and achieving her academic dreams. 

“In order to maintain my self-care, you need to know when you need a break,” said Deqa. “I am a mother, and I need to be healthy in order to take care of my kids.” 

Deqa advised women to ask for support when you need it. “I am never afraid to say, I need help because I can’t do it alone.”

Tips to promote wellness and health

Keynote speaker Aanchal Vash shared her personal journey of losing her brothers and she spoke about how she founded Reach Out Together, a non-profit organization that builds awareness about mental health. 
Keynote speaker Aanchal Vash walking the attendees through a quick stretching exercise before her presentation.
Above: Keynote speaker Aanchal Vash walking the attendees through a quick stretching exercise before her presentation. 

“What I lacked in the past was knowledge and awareness of mental health,” said Aanchal, when as she shared the story about the passing of her brother. 

“I founded Reach out Together and formed a team of like-minded people who want to take action on mental health and want to help people in our community.” 

Aanchal shared a few tips that organizations can do to help promote good mental health in the workplace. 
  • Support employee participation and decision making
  • Define employees’ duties and responsibilities
  • Promote work-life balance
  • Encourage respectful behaviours
  • Recognize employees’ contributions effectively 

“Mental health awareness in the workplace is so important,” said Aanchal. “Work life balance is key.” 

More information