Speak Up, Speak Out For Mental Health


CMHA Calgary Youth Educators have been a part of a three month campaign called Speak Up, Speak Out, a project led by Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA). 

CIWA Community Liaison, Abiodun Odueke, says the idea of the project originated from years of working within the immigrant population in Calgary.

“ [We] saw the need to break the stigmatization attached to the seeking of mental health services among immigrant and refugee communities. We targeted two of the top 5% ethnocultural communities: Filipino and Southeast Asian communities in Calgary.”

Speak Up, Speak Out utilized the ‘Train the Trainer’ approach where both youth and adult volunteers from the Filipino and Southeast Asian communities went through mental health-based educational modules that were co-developed by CMHA Calgary and members of CIWA. 

Once the material was delivered, the volunteers promoted their newfound skills and strategies to combat mental health stigma through community workshops and awareness campaigns.

Creating mental health ambassadors within their own respective communities aligned with CIWA’s vision of keeping different cultural nuances intact within different immigrant groups.

“This method ensured that those with low English proficiency can understand as the trained volunteers are able to support in native language interpretation/translation,” Odueke said. 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Youth Education Lead, Ashley Lamantia, is apart of the CMHA Calgary team that helped craft and teach the modules utilized in the Speak Up, Speak Out project.

“Through a culturally sensitive approach, [we] provided our entire suite of Community Education modules, on topics such as “Mental Health Awareness”, “Stress Management and Healthy Coping”, “Suicide Prevention”, and “Skills for Being There”. These educational sessions were designed and delivered by our Immigrant Education Facilitator, an educator with lived experience surrounding immigration. The modules were tailored towards themes of mental health, with a specific focus on building community capacity and resiliency, while starting a new chapter in Canada.”

There are many elements that made this campaign unique including the co-development of the curriculum ensuring the subject matters inclusivity, which doesn’t always come into consideration.

“Recently, CMHA Calgary’s Community Education Program has observed a significant increase in requests from immigrant-serving organizations seeking mental health education, and we recognize that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is simply not enough.”

Wellness in the Workplace

CIWA is on the frontend of endorsing mental health practices throughout their organization. Odueke says they have many different ways to infiltrate mental health and wellness into CIWA that cater to each and every employee.

The Power of the Moment

Reflecting back on the campaign, Odueke says the ‘power of the moment’ was a very significant takeaway that shows how essential the art of conversation is.

“We were able to provide the support and reach a larger audience when it was most needed in the community due to the pandemic […] The provision of culturally sensitive support [by the project] leads with cultural humility and agility to deal with and normalize conversations about mental health.”

Based on observations and community evaluations, the CIWA team received great feedback that showed increased knowledge and awareness in the following areas;

  • An in-depth look into mental health and illnesses
  • Stigma towards mental health
  • Resources to address mental health
  • The need for mental health supports
  • Willingness to change the language used to discuss mental health
  • Willingness to speak up and speak out
  • Recognize the need to talk more openly with one another

Since this is the first successful launch of the campaign, CIWA will expand the project and reach other ethnocultural community members in the future by further developing the Train the Trainer method and continuing to uplift the voices of those who are silenced. 

Lamantia and her team are optimistic about more opportunities to help guide and assimilate future immigrants and refugees to a mentally healthy community. 

“It has been a pleasure working with the CIWA team, and I genuinely hope we can collaborate on new projects and campaigns in the future.”


If you cannot find someone you trust who is willing to support you, dial a crisis line right away at 403-266-HELP (4357) All crisis lines are confidential.

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