I am fortunate to be around inspiring people each and every day.
From our patients and families to the people who help them on their recovery journey, there is something special about being around people passionate about mental health.
That passion was in abundance on Wednesday, Sept. 27 as I brought a small group of these inspiring people from Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) to the Art Gallery of Burlington to meet Brian Hansell, a father determined to make a difference.
Paul Hansell was a talented musician, songwriter and dancer. He was also an active student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., who was always willing to lend a hand to others.
Paul kept his struggles to himself.
In December, 2010 Paul lost his life to suicide at the age of 18.
The tragedy rocked the Hansell family, but it wasn’t long after that they decided to take action. They formed the Paul Hansell Foundation and set out to spark conversations about mental health around the world.
They created the concept of the #ConvoPlate, colourful rectangular plates with messages intended to start conversations about mental health. Through a partnership with the Art Gallery of Burlington, groups visit the studio for a #ConvoPlate making session. Each plate is hand painted with unique artistry and mental health messages. No two plates are the same. Once created, the plates are then numbered and put into circulation.
Once in circulation, the plates are passed along with the hope of inspiring and influencing others. When a person receives a #ConvoPlate, they are encouraged to register it online and promote it on social media.
Several high profile people have received a #ConvoPlate, including politicians and celebrities. Perhaps the biggest achievement for the Paul Hansell Foundation to date was when Prince William and Kate of the Royal Family received a #ConvoPlate in 2016.
The attention this initiative has received is well deserved. It’s an incredibly unique idea and has the ability to influence and educate people for years to come. However, regardless of how high the #ConvoPlate rises, I will always tie it back to the experience of bringing members of the Ontario Shores family to meet Brian and create their own #ConvoPlate for circulation.
Everyone around the table at the session had a deep connection to mental health and mental illness, either as a patient, family member or advocate. It was incredible to listen to Brian talk about his son and his Foundation’s determination to change the conversation. His passion touched us all.
The #ConvoPlate initiative is still in its infancy, but gaining traction. I feel privileged to have experienced this so early into its journey as I feel it is destined to make a longstanding impact in how people view and talk about mental health.
As we travelled back to Whitby after meeting with Brian and making our plates everyone was still buzzing. There was a feeling of excitement knowing that we participated in something special. There was a sense of accomplishment knowing that the #ConvoPlate we created could one day be in the hands of a politician who can influence policy, or be presented to an actor who can inspire thousands or land beside a young person who needs support.
It was a powerful experience and one that we are all grateful to have been a part of.
Visit www.paulhansellfoundation.com for more information or search #ConvoPlate on social media for more information.