Mental Health Collective
Art + Health is a mental health collective that promotes mental wellness to culturally specific communities in Toronto. Starting with a focus on the Habesha community, our signature workshop series, Kitchen Table Talks brings together youth and elders in intergenerational conversations around complex subjects regarding mental health and wellness over a warm cooked meal.
In Toronto, Ethiopians and Eritreans newcomers have one of the highest rates of suicide, one uncle told us, that year, he attended a funeral every week for a month. Back home, we are taught that psychiatric health is not real. As a result, there isn’t even language to describe things like anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar disorder, which makes it that much harder to validate the experiences of someone facing mental health challenges and even harder to give it a name.
Many people go undiagnosed for fear of being labeled “crazy” or spiritually possessed by members of our community. As members of this community, we know these stigmas very well, are doing the work to unlearn them, and through Art + Health, are creating programs that unlearn these superstitions.
Our signature workshop, Kitchen Table Talks (KTT), was launched on October 6, 2018 at TAIBU Community Health Centre and brings together youth and elders of Habesha (Eritrean & Ethiopian) descent, in intergenerational conversations around mental health over injera (our traditional cuisine).
Learn more about our community programs.
Artistic & Strategic Lead
Aden is an artist and community organizer whose passions lie at the intersection of art and social justice. Her photo series, Mental Health: a mother's burden (2011), depicting an Habesha family unaware that their mother/wife is depressed, opened up a discussion on mental health among youth in the Toronto Habesha community. For 10 years Aden has worked in the community as an educator and programmer with a focus on youth leadership, developing arts-based curricula, and mental health support. She creates as a means not an end, and always has a greater vision for where her work (be it storytelling or advocacy) can take her and her community.
Mihret is a Paralegal and Mental Health Justice Worker who has spent over 10 years working in the criminal justice system, and non-profit sector. As a Paralegal, she witnessed the overrepresentation of incarcerated Ethiopian and Eritrean youth, which ultimately led to her journey to further understand the connection between the unvoiced and implicit cultural pressures and its effects on mental health and criminal activity.
Social Media Specialist
May is an Ethio-Eritrean artist hoping to create work that inspires people that share her stories. Her experience with Borderline Personality Disorder constantly opens her eyes to the many resources our community needs and deserves.
Mahedar Mellkamu is a full time nursing student with 10 years of experience engaging with and advocating for black and racialized youth through her front-line role as a membership officer at the Scarborough YMCA.