#ConvoPlate Keeps the Conversation Going for Mental Health in Oakville

ConvoPlate
#ConvoPlate Keeps the Conversation Going for Mental Health in Oakville

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Pam Damoff

Pam Damoff

Pam Damoff, a politician, community activist and business professional with over 25 years’ corporate experience on Bay Street, was elected to represent the riding of Oakville North-Burlington in the House of Commons in the 2015 federal election. Prior to the election, Pam served as an Oakville Town Councillor from 2010-2015.

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On Friday, September 16, 2016 the Hon. Kevin Flynn, Oakville MPP and Ontario Minister of Labour passed on the #ConvoPlate to me in order to keep the conversation going on mental health.

#ConvoPlates are a cornerstone of the Paul Hansell Foundation which was founded after the tragic loss of Paul to suicide in December 2010 at the age of 18. The hand painted stoneware plates are circulated in communities across Canada to get people talking about mental health. Each one is different and was created by a member of our local community with its own special message and meaning.

The Paul Hansell Foundation was lauched by Paul’s father Brian and sister Jolene after Paul’s death. The Foundation uses education and awareness to break down barriers and establish a proactive and preventative dialogue that puts mental health on an equal footing with all other forms of health. Brian Hansell hopes to spread #ConvoPlates around the globe in an effort to spark conversations about mental health.

The plates, decorated by students in an art therapy program in Burlington where Paul went to high school, have travelled as far as Alberta, Texas, Georgia, England and The Netherlands, since the initiative launched at the beginning of May, 2016.

Other notable Canadians who have already held a #ConvoPlate include astronaut Chris Hadfield, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Margaret Trudeau and Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire. A plate has made it inside the House of Commons twice, and more than 27 members of Parliament, seven Ontario MPPs and three Canadian mayors have held one.

“One of the most important ways we can address mental health issues is by de-stigmatizing it and making it part of an everyday conversation,” said Kevin Flynn, MPP for Oakville and Minister of Labour, Ontario. “The Convo Plate is an impressive grass-roots initiative that encourages people of all ages to speak up about mental health, to support and educate each other, and to keep the conversation going.”

According to Jolene, the vice-president of the Paul Hansell Foundation, the #ConvoPlate initiative has exploded into something way bigger than they could have ever imagined.

The original idea was that we wanted mental health to be part of our every day conversations. I think Paul would be proud that it’s a conversation that we’re having.

After receiving a plate, people are encouraged to share a picture on social media using #Convo Plates, and pass it on to someone else to prompt more conversations about mental wellness. There are currently over 50 plates in circulation and each one is branded with a number so the foundation can track where they go.

The Foundation plans to put more plates into circulation and some of the big names they hope to see hold a Convo Plate include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the secretary general of the United Nations, the head of the World Health Organization, members of the British royal family and the Pope.

Jolene Hansell said her hope is that one day somebody else won’t be in the same place as her brother. “I hope if someone finds themselves in the same situation as Paul, they’ll be able to ask for help, and it’ll be OK and completely normal to say, ‘I’m having a bad day, I need to take a mental health day,’ said Jolene. “We need to keep the conversation going.”

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