Mind as Still as a Hummingbird

Coast Capital LogoFunded by Coast Capital Savings in partnership with the CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch, the Mind as Still as a Hummingbird (MASH) is a youth program that facilitates a greater understanding of mental health and well-being through education and skill development.

The Mind as Still as a Hummingbird (MASH) Project included five members of the Open Door Youth Advisory Committee team and began with an experiential learning journey that explored a diversity of perspectives around mental health and wellness – First Nations, Research and Modern Practices. The team later used their learning journeys to help them to co-create a workshop called Mindful Wellness and adopted the Wellness Wheel as a Model of Self-Care. The workshop was very well received by the school district and the team co-facilitated the workshop to 25 classes and community groups reaching nearly 400 youth!

Learning the ability to focus the mind through mindfulness training and come back into emotional balance when feeling depressed and stressed was the goal. The program was be delivered by trained facilitators under our Integrated Youth Services Open Door Youth Services Centre. The Open Door facilitates access to existing physical and mental health services, reducing barriers by providing a bridge between young people and the services they need. Youth were trained to co-facilitate the program.

MASH Activity Plan

Elders, youth leaders and staff designed a framework and workshop that brought together three perspectives on mindful awareness - cultural teachings, research findings and mindfulness practices.

Week 1: At a traditional teaching place, Elders were invited to share with youth leaders and staff cultural teaching on growing up mindful, aware and strong - outwardly and inwardly, becoming a calm respectful interconnected presence in the world.

Week 2: At CMHA Open Door (371 Festubert Street), staff introduced the research findings of interpersonal neurobiology to Elders and youth leaders, explored the relationship of brain development to behaviours, and discussed how inner change is reflected in how we meet the world.

Week 3: The practices of mindfulness awareness were introduced to Elders and youth as recognized inner methods to calm body and mind, let go of mean self-talk and worry.

Week 4: Elders and youth leaders were invited to explore where perspectives align and support each other and whe do not. If gaps are found, the task became finding ways to narrow those gaps through deepening understanding.

Week 5/6: Staff, Elders and youth leaders met to design the frameworks integrating the perspectives.

Week 7/8: Staff Elders and youth leaders met to develop experiential workshops based on the framework.

Week 9-28: The framework was honed through 20 workshop of 15 youth each. Short/medium impact assessment (Week 13).

Week 29-32: Analysis/report on the impact of the project

Letters of Impact from Youth Participants:

Submitted by Mila Stewart: 

"For years no one talked to me about mental wellness and health and I have been able to learn so much through working with other youth on the Youth Action Committee at Open Door. I am excited to meet as a group to see my wonder friends and new people I would never have known if not for Open Door. Each meeting is not only a chance to visit, learn more about others, ourselves and mental health and wellness, but also to share what we have learned on our own from our experiences and spread the wealth. As one of the youth presenting the Mind as Still as a Hummingbird (MASH) workshop I have been able to share with others the importance of looking after yourself and mental health to feel a little bit more balanced in life. I never had the chance to attend a workshop like this at the age we have been presenting to and it makes me so happy that I can give that chance to others around me and that we are talking even more about mental health than when I was in grade seven only five years ago. I had a chance to glance a couple of surveys from the last MASH workshop I presented and the ones I saw all had written they felt they learned something and that they had a fun time participating. I didn't expect early teenagers to actually admit to learning anything and am so happy the work I am doing through Open Door is getting through to those we present to and meet."

Submitted by Katia Bannister:

"The first time I was involved with CMHA, albeit unknowingly, was at the 2018 Youth Action Day that was organized by the Compassionate Leaders Program. I think that attending the 2018 Youth Action Day was a defining moment in my life and a catalyst into my work in activism and leadership. At the event I got to learn about using leadership games to create inclusive leadership spaces, and creating safe spaces for people who have experienced trauma. It was a moving day for me, one of the first days that I saw myself having a place in leadership and making change in the world.

In December of that year, I attended the 2018 Compassionate Leaders Camp, unknowing of the connection between this camp and the Youth Action Day event I had attended months before. The 2018 Compassionate Leaders Camp was a jam packed few days of educational fun, empowerment and friendship. I am still in touch with many of those who I met at camp, some reside within my social circles and others I continue to do community work with on projects I learned of through the Compassionate Leaders Program. In fact, I am still involved with all of the projects I began as a part of the Compassionate Leaders Program. Through the program I began being a big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters, helped organize the 2019 Youth Action Day and have participated in programming for Open Door Youth Services. I have thoroughly enjoyed the work that I have done with all these projects and continue to do so. There are so many youth struggling in our community, whether it is with homelessness, addiction, mental health, or just not feeling supported at school or home. CMHA provides youth with spaces to find each other and build community, and do meaningful work. My favourite opportunity thus far has been the CMHA Youth Advisory Committee.

The CMHA Youth Advisory Committee is a group based out of CMHA’s Open Door Youth Services building. Our group seeks to empower youth and educate them on mental health issues. The work our group does with other high school students, is to teach them about common mental health considerations such as anxiety and depression. Alongside workers from Open Door Youth Services, members of the Youth Advisory Committee also work to support youth and adults in need. One of the most influential experiences I have had with the Youth Advisory Committee was when we went to Our Place Society in Victoria last December. Our Place is an inclusive community of hope and belonging for Greater Victoria's most vulnerable citizens. They provide programs and services, and offer hope to the hungry and homeless.

It was a chilly day and the air was cool, but it neither rained or snowed, much to our delight. We had brought with us hot chocolate powder, marshmallows, sprinkles, cookies and whipped cream, and set up a table outside the doors of Our Place Society after receiving a tour of the building. We probably served hot chocolate and cookies to over a hundred people that day. It was heartwarming, moving, humbling. I believe our presence as caring young people, meant the world to many of the homeless we interacted with that day. It was amazing to me how a cookie and smile could bring so much joy to people. Kindness and compassion are the greatest and most accessible gifts we have to give, something that our day at Our Place Society reaffirmed in me.

I am so grateful for the opportunities and privileges that being a part of the CMHA community has provided me with. I have gotten to meet so many inspiring individuals and participate in projects that have bettered the lives of many youth. CMHA Cowichan Valley is an incredible organization, and is celebrated by myself and many other youth for it’s contributions to our community."

We are grateful to Coast Capital Savings Community Investment Fund for supporting this program.