How Grassroots Mindfulness Fuels Mental Health Support

To make mindfulness accessible, you need to go into communities that aren't attending the conventional mindfulness classes. Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce visits the Centre for Mindful Studies in Toronto where frontline workers train clients in mindfulness.

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In Parkdale, a diverse neighborhood in Toronto’s West End, members of the Centre for Mindfulness Studies’ Community Program work in concert with local community members to help serve those in need of mental health support.  The Centre trains frontline workers, who train clients in mindfulness skills, and some of those clients become peer leaders who bring mindfulness skills to others. It’s based on a vision of a community-centric — rather than institution-centric — approach to mental health care.

What community-based public-health looks like

Tita Angangco, pictured below, co-founded the Centre six years ago with Patricia Rockman, MD, and runs the Community Program. Pat, who was busy working with faculty and staff that morning, is in charge of all training and education, and is responsible for the Centre being the premiere place for clinicians in Ontario to be trained in mindfulness. Tita is standing in front of PARC: The Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, where homeless and precariously housed people come for a wide variety of services, including mindfulness, a good hot meal, and some companionship.

Tita: “To do mental health work, you have to go to where the people are; you can’t wait for them to come to intimidating places far from home, run by people who appear to be judging them.”

“To do mental health work, you have to go to where the people are; you can’t wait for them to come to intimidating places far from home, run by people who appear to be judging them.”

Here, in PARC’s drop-in room, where oatmeal and bananas are being served, is Leysa Cerswell Kielburger — who is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology and who specializes in “community-based, culturally-grounded, evidence-based mental health service, including mindfulness-based cognitive and behavioural therapies” — with Terence Williams, a PARC member, peer mindfulness leader, and Community Outreach Worker at PARC. You become a PARC member simply by walking through the door. Terence: “When I get impatient waiting for the streetcar, I practice self-compassion, and repeat phrases to myself like, ‘May I live with ease, may I be free from torment…’, and then I can extend that to others, ‘May you live with ease, may you be free from torment….’”