Sweetening Mental Health Awareness Message

By Brent Smyth

Brent Smyth


31 Division
Community Partnerships and Engagement Unit

Police and Auxiliary officers at four McDonald’s locations around the city handed out free ice cream to youth with simple message: “Today, I support Mental Health.”

The Youth Mental Health Day event on June 28 sought to start conversations about the struggles that social media, trauma and bullying play in the mental health of youth. Members of the Toronto Police Service, as well as Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo were in attendance to show support, and help hand out the ice cream cones.

Ida-Maria Carriero, who founded a non-profit organization “Youth2Youth Global” to help break the stigma attached with mental health struggles, partnered with police and members of parliament to make the day possible.

“By incorporating our police and our ministers, we’re helping the voice of the youth in the community be heard by those who can help with more resources, and hopefully have it become part of school curriculum moving forward,” said the 15-year-old Carriero.

The Community Partnerships and Engagement Unit and their Youth Advisory Committee organized the event with the support of McDonald’s franchise John McDonald.

Group of police officers
Polic and Auxiliary officers with Youth2Youth Global Founder Ida-Maria Carriero, McDonald's GM John McDonald, Acting Superintendent Don Theriault, and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo Photo: Brent Smyth

There was no shortage of volunteers to attend.

Constable Scott Sayer, a Black Creak Neighbourhood Community Officer had no hesitation about joining in.

“Mental health affects everybody, and sometimes people can think that us having a uniform on that maybe those types of things don’t affect us,” he said. “Having us here shows everybody we support everything what’s happening and we’re also members of the community just like everyone else.”

Daniel Araujo, 21, a Youth2Youth Global ambassador, said he’s seen trust in police grow through opening up the lines of communication.

“We had youth in the community have interactions with police officers and they’ll actually request specific police officers to assist with whatever situation they may be going through because they have that relationship established from events such as this one today,” said Araujo.

He continued that ice cream cones were the perfect treat for an event such as Youth Mental Health Day, because of the ability to bring people together, and the ease with which it can start a conversation.

Adriana Carpanzano, another one of Youth2Youth Global’s ambassadors, said having officers be the ones to distribute the cones and start these conversations with youth would help bridge some gaps in the community as well.

“It displays everyone has struggles. Whether you are working a career as a police officer, where you’re dealing with some of the hardest things people have to see, but it also shows they are just human, and also love ice cream. It’s a great way to connect with them and learn about them as people instead of just seeing the uniform.”



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