On January 30, 2019, Bell Let’s Talk Day, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto launched a three-part series - Minding the Gap: A Conversation on Mental Health from Stigma to Treatment Innovation.
The first event in this series, A Conversation on Mental Health & Stigma, included talks by three guest speakers, Tammie Sutherland (reporter from CityNews and Breakfast Television), Shayan Yazdanpanah (Student and Jack Talks speaker with Jack.org), and Dr. Gursharan Virdee (Psychologist and Researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). This was followed by a discussion panel moderated by Karim Mamdani (CEO, Ontario Shores) and question and answer period to conclude the evening. 
The speakers addressed the ways in which stigma impacted their own personal story and experience with mental health challenges of their own and of their loved ones, including those who had lost their lives to suicide. They also talked about seeking the right help, their emotions and finding their voices to speak up about the reality of dealing with mental illness. 
During the panel discussion, the speakers observed that mental health and illness does not look the same in all individuals or in all communities. It is therefore critical to learn how to help yourself and help others. Dr. Virdee remarked that stigma is shaped by culture. As a society we should strive to create a future that is stigma-free. This can be achieved by first acknowledging how stigma presents itself in your community and then working to combat it. Finally, all of the speakers agreed that by joining the conversation to create a stigma-free society we are helping to shape a society where individuals can access the important care and attention they need without unnecessary and preventable barriers such as stigma. 
Bell Let’s Talk Day is a day when Canada comes together to raise awareness and discuss mental health and mental illness while fundraising to support mental health initiatives in Canada.  Minding the Gap is a collection of lectures and presentations taking place at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, dedicated to sharing ideas and sparking a conversation about mental health in our society in collaboration with leading professionals, academics, and experts in the field. 
The next Minding the Gap event will be held on May 9th and will focus on Access to Mental Health Care. 
For more information, please access the resources available through CAMH, Bell Let’s Talk, and Jack.org.