Speakers & Facilitators


Gaya ArasaratnamGaya Arasaratnam, M.B.A.

joined by Dr. Laura Girtz

“What the AIDS Epidemic Can Teach Us About Mental Health Responses”


Rick SinRick Sin, MSW, RSW

joined by Faiza Rab and Mezart Daulet

“Addressing mental health stigma in Asian Canadian community – Strategies, Skills and Challenges”


Sharon LawlorSharon Lawlor, RN, BHScN, CPMHN(c), EMCA

joined by Constable Brian Urquhart

“MCIT’s role in responding with suicidal patient and Mental Illness”


Alexandra MorraAlexandra Morra, BScN, RN

“From Patient to Provider: My Journey”





Andrew PoulosAndrew Poulos, BA, M.Ed

Mental Health First Aid



Bronwyn DicksonBronwyn Dickson

Therapy Dog Session feat. St. John’s Ambulance dogs



Dr Jasna SchwindDr. Jasna Schwind, RN, PhD

“Mindfulness Practice: A tool for self-care within an educational context”



Juannittah KameraJuannittah Kamera, RN, BScN, MScHPPH, PRINCE2

“Mental Well-being – The Student Experience”



What the AIDS Epidemic Can Teach Us About Mental Health Responses

As mental health burdens continue to rise on Canadian campuses, Gaya and Laura will look to the AIDS epidemic and lessons learned that could be transferred to our battle against mental health concerns and stigma. This keynote will also discuss the importance of mental health as a part of holistic health and wellbeing, the reasons why mental health burdens are rising on university campuses such as Ryerson, and the urgent need for new and novel solutions. — The status quo can no longer be maintained — and perhaps the AIDS epidemic can give us some lessons to draw from.

Gaya Arasaratnam, M.B.A.

Gaya is Acting Director, Strategic Projects, Student Health and Wellness; a department within the Student Affairs portfolio. In her role, she oversees the department’s strategic goals as well as the operations of its three units: the Centre for the Student Development and Counselling, Ryerson Medical Centre, and Health Promotions. Gaya is deeply interested in the role of innovation in healthcare, particularly in its ability to increase access to services in marginalised and resource-constrained communities. Her publications have appeared in WHO reports and articles. 

Addressing mental health stigma in Asian Canadian community – Strategies, Skills and Challenges

The aim of Strength in Unity project is to engage males – young and old – to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Asian communities in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver. In particular, we will be working with individuals living with or affected by mental illness, and community leaders from various sectors in piloting and evaluating two anti-stigma interventions: Acceptance Commitment Training (ACT) and Community-based empowerment education (CEE). ACT intervention is aimed at the intrapersonal level and focuses on internalized stigma. CEE intervention has to do with interpersonal levels to facilitate knowledge building about mental health/illness and stigma reduction, and skill development in evidence-uptake to advance practice and policy change. In Toronto, we were set to recruit 1000 bilingual Asian males. This includes people living with mental illness, those who have family members living with mental illness and Community Leaders.

In this presentation, we will provide a critical review of this community engagement process and identify critical lessons for community health promotion and community- engaged research pertaining to the stigma of mental illness among men in racialized communities. First, we will provide an overview of key strategies and skills of community mobilization. Second, we will critically review their strengths and weakness. Last but not least, we will highlight some of the major obstacles and ethical dilemmas our research team being confronted.

Rick Sin, MSW, RSW

Rick Sin is a senior research associate of the Strength in Unity Project overseeing its Toronto Site. He is currently also a part-time faculty member of the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. He has extensive experience in community engaged research, knowledge mobilization and exchange, human rights advocacy and social work education.

Strength in Unity is a community-based research funded Movember Foundation to build capacity among Asian males in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, and mobilize them to become Community Mental Health Ambassadors. It aims to raise awareness about mental illness, available supports and services and encourage communities to address mental health stigma.

MCIT’s role in responding with suicidal patient and Mental Illness

MCITs respond to 911 crisis calls from those thinking of suicide or harming themselves or those demonstrating distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety and overwhelming depression. MCIT helps to de-escalate and avert injury to police, nurse and person in crisis and reduce pressure on the justice and health care systems.

Sharon Lawlor, RN, BHScN, CPMHN(c), EMCA

Sharon has a long history in psychiatric nursing having worked in-patient, community, crisis, nurse management and MCIT. Her nursing skills have given her the opportunity to travel to India and Thailand to assist in developing nursing programs. She has been an RN on the St. Joseph’s and Toronto East General Hospital MCIT’s for the past 8 years. Sharon won Nurse of the Year in the 2015 Toronto Star Nightingale Awards.

From Patient to Provider: My Journey

For many years, Alex did not seek help for her mental illness, believing it was a flaw of her character, rather than a disorder. Join her discussion on battling stigma, overcoming obstacles, and joining a profession dedicated to those battling a war similar to her own.

Alexandra Morra, BScN, RN

Currently working in psychiatric emergency services where Alexandra assesses individuals in crisis; aspiring psychiatrist; she has overcome her own mental illness and has used her experience to fuel her passion on advocating for the promotion of mental health and abolishing stigma.

Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis is resolved. While people often know a great deal about physical health problems, most people have little knowledge about mental illness. This lack of understanding promotes fear and stigma and, as a result, it prevents people from seeking help early and it may keep people from providing appropriate support to those in need simply because they do not know how.

Participants will learn how to help people who are showing signs of mental health problems or are experiencing a mental health crisis. Mental health problems that will be covered are substance-related disorders, depression and bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and psychosis.

Andrew Poulos, BA, M.Ed

Andrew N. Poulos, M. Ed, is a Registered Psychotherapist. He has worked at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber for over 15 years, assisting students living with mental health problems. Andrew has led workshops on suicide awareness and prevention, learning skills development and mental health awareness. He is a certified trainer for both Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK. In addition to his current position as a psychological counsellor at Humber College, Andrew is the Co-ordinator of Counselling Services and Accessible Learning Services at Humber’s Lakeshore Campus.

Mindfulness Practice: A tool for self-care within an educational context

Participants will engage in an experiential workshop on self-care using mindfulness within an educational context.They will also learn about the benefits and the challenges of practicing mindfulness.

Dr. Jasna Schwind, RN, PhD

Dr. Schwind is Associate Professor in the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing. Her program of research, by means of Arts-Informed Narrative Inquiry, focuses on the reconstruction of experience of personal and professional self within professional and therapeutic relationships in nursing education and practice. Using the creative tool, Narrative Reflective Process, she explores humanness-of-care, which she defines as a mindful presence with the persons in our care. This requires mindful awareness with non-judgmental acceptance of self and others in the present moment. Over the past twenty years, Dr. Schwind has attended workshops, retreats, and classes on various mindfulness practices, some of which she includes in her personal practice, with her students in teaching-learning situations, as well as in Arts-Informed Narrative Inquiry data collection approaches.

Mental Well-being – The Student Experience

An interactive session where we will explore what the student mental health experience really is.  You will also learn strategies for how to recognize, respond and refer appropriately to mental well-being challenges.

Juannittah Kamera, RN, BScN, MScHPPH, PRINCE2

Juannittah Kamera is the Health Promotion Programs Coordinator and Registered Nurse overseeing Ryerson University’s Health Promotion’s department. She engages and collaborates with students, staff and faculty to address the numerous issues that challenge students and impede their ability to perform at their best. With a Masters in Health Promotion and Public Health, her work contributes to establishing Ryerson as a healthy campus community where students can flourish and succeed.