Click here to access Stuart Shanker's guest article: Expanding our Understanding of the Meaning of "Safe."

FOCUS ON: Safe and Caring Communities

by: Susan Hopkins, Ed. D, Executive Director of Safe and Caring

Community. Such a great word. The tail end of the word is “unity,” which to me, is really the essence of community. It is by uniting together through shared histories, shared goals, shared spaces that we create community and the sense of belonging that ultimately comes from being part of a group.

Communities can be geographically defined. I felt the social cohesion of a community while living for several years in a small community in the Northwest Territories, in the dynamic and never dull west end of Vancouver, and today in the vibrant neighbourhood of Westmount, Edmonton.

Yet feeling like a member of a community involves more than a physical location. I felt like an outsider to a geographically defined community when I lived in Ottawa at 19 years old, never feeling truly at home. During my years living in Italy, despite feeling so welcomed, I was constantly aware of my status as a “stanieri” – a foreigner, a stranger, an outsider. Being on the outside looking in can be a lonely place to be, especially on those days when you are feeling a little vulnerable and longing for the familiarity of being “home.”

There are other kinds of communities, without a geographic boundary, that I have felt a strong connection with over the years, such as the yoga and local theatre communities, work and volunteer communities and cultural communities. In this month’s bulletin, we have explored different ways of recognizing and celebrating community. Whether its celebrating common heritage, finding and pursuing shared goals, “being together with all your friends and family,” or simply treating one another with respect, communities offer us support, friendship, belonging and hope – something that all children, youth and adults across Alberta deserve.

This month, join Safe and Caring as we find ways to honour and nurture community in our work and daily lives, starting with the various perspectives and strategies shared in our news bulletin.

This article appeared in our June 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

RESOURCE: Teen Mentoring Toolkit Live!

TMT, homepage banner

Safe and Caring is very excited to announce provincial release of the Teen Mentoring Toolkit (TMT). The Teen Mentoring Toolkit is a no-cost online resource that provides schools and community agencies with the opportunity to build or enhance quality mentoring programs. Teen Mentoring engages junior and high school aged youth as mentors to younger students in creating a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe community through positive mentoring relationships.

Designed in collaboration between the Society for Safe & Caring Schools & Communities and the Alberta Mentoring Partnership, the toolkit identifies research-informed and evidence- based practices, strategies and tools for planning, implementing and evaluating a quality teen mentoring program.

The online toolkit may be accessed at either of the following websites:

Safe and Caring Schools & Communities:

Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP):

Contact us at  if you have any questions, or would if you would like more information to promote this resource with your various stakeholder groups, school staff, collaborative networks, communities of practice, etc.


YOUTH PERSPECTIVES: The Value of Positivity and Kindness

Guest Contribution by: by Caitlin Haacke, Creator of Positive Post-It Day. Visit her at @caitlin_haacke and

CaitlinHelen Keller once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see a shadow.”

What this phrase means is that if you remain positive, the negative cannot affect you. A great example of this is to imagine you wake up one morning to a large bouquet of flowers and a note that says “I love you” from anonymous. This small act of kindness makes you feel happy, loved and almost euphoric. That feeling doesn’t lessen throughout the day, even when you spill coffee on your pants, miss the train and forget that file at work.

The positive feeling outweighs any feeling of stress that you normally would have felt. This pertains to mental health and well-being because with the growing number of cases of depression in our society, we need to find a way to combat it.

Imagine the impact if everyone agreed to do one act of kindness everyday? It could help with feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and sadness. There are so many people, young and old whose lives could be drastically altered by a stranger’s act of compassion, positivity and kindness.

A phrase I would like to share as I strongly believe it is “An ounce of positivity can wash away an ocean of negativity.”

This article appeared in our May 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

YOUTH PERSPECTIVES: Anxiety is the Worst

by: Logan Peters

Logan PetersAnxiety is the worst.

Anxiety is a monster that eats away at its victims and haunts those who think they’ve shed it’s torment.

Quite dark, I know. But this is my relationship with anxiety.
I think everyone struggles with an anxiety monster at some point in their lives. Anxiety can come in many forms; it’s different for everybody.

For me, I struggle mostly with social anxiety. This means that I often get uncomfortable or nervous when confronted with a social interaction or event. The anxiety attacks and negative thoughts are hard to get rid of. Believe me, it has taken me a long time to figure out the root of my monster.

Here are a few ways I deal with my anxiety.

  • I organize and clean. Sometimes cleaning up your environment can help you feel less scatter-brained; a good place to start!
  • I take a step back and ask myself “am I being rational?” Usually the answer is, no. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own thoughts and worries that we forget that we are O.K.
  • I pick up old hobbies. In high school I was a total art nerd, but as I began university and other various activities,
  • I forgot to be creative. NEVER forget to do things that you enjoy.
  • I unplug. Social media is great and all but I tend to feel depressed after scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. These apps can be a real waste of time.
  • I keep busy. Sitting around dwelling on negative thoughts will bring you down and make you feel worse.
  • I talk to someone close to me about it. Sometimes other people have good advice or can share similar experiences.
  • I take myself out on a coffee date. Sitting alone at a café may sound lonely but you may be surprised at how much fun it can be. Bring a notebook or sketchpad and relax, there’s no one to impress.
  • I stop putting pressure on myself. You are you, and you are unique. Embrace who you are, no matter how weird or awkward you feel because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people think about you.

This article appeared in our May 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

FOCUS ON: Get Loud for Mental Health

Guest Contribution Ione Challborn, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region

Ione Headshot ColourThe Canadian Mental Health Association is celebrating its 64th Mental Health Week May 4-10, 2015 by exploring the important mental health needs of men and boys.
Check out to find important information you can use in your classroom and your own life. You can also check out what is happening across Alberta (and across the country!) to celebrate Mental Health Week!

Good mental health isn’t about avoiding problems or trying to achieve a perfect life. It’s about living well and having the tools for coping with difficult situations even during life’s challenges.
Each person’s path to mental health is unique. We all have our own goals, our own challenges and our own supports. Good mental health is within everyone’s reach.

Students, parents, volunteers and school staff all come to school carrying their life in their back pack. As well as trying to do their best job; they may also be anxious, worried about bullying or violence, concerned about family members and friends, stressing about coming out or transitioning, hungry or wondering where they are sleeping tonight.

It is easy to feel alone and isolated when your problems are big and feel insurmountable, especially so if there is shame or stigma attached to your “problem.”
Efforts are made every day to make schools safe and caring places. Creating a welcoming and non-judgemental atmosphere, and sharing wide open ears and a soft heart make a world of difference for anyone who is carrying a burden.

CMHA, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, hosted HEADSTRONG Youth Summits in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge in spring 2015. There is such energy and passion among our youth to end the stigma by sharing personal stories of lived experience (life can get better, recovery is possible!), create circles of friendship and support in schools, and create stigma-free school zones. These youth summits are possible to easily replicate across the province and planning tools are available at

Recent provincial research shows that most Albertans want to learn more about mental health and want to learn how to support their own mental health. They want information. CMHA can help youth, adults and families to learn how to take care of their mental health, get the facts about mental illness and find help. Visit to find the CMHA closest to you.

So when someone asks you how you feel, do you say you feel fine or phine (saying you are fine when you are not)? Now GET LOUD because being phine is not fine.

GET LOUD in support of mental health!

This article appeared in our March 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!


[Update: Posting closed. Thank you to all applicants!]

Safe and Caring is hiring!

Do you have a knack for numbers and professional experience in bookkeeping, payroll and administrative support? Are you looking for an opportunity to join a fun and rewarding team? Are you interested in helping make Alberta a safer, more caring place, one invoice at a time?

We are looking to fill a vacancy for this part-time position, with up to 20 hours per week, as soon as possible.

Check out the official job posting for more information: JOB POSTING-Bookkeeper

If you are interested, send your cover letter and resume to, addressed to Susan Hopkins, Executive Director.

We look forward to hearing from you!

FOCUS ON: Healthy from Head to Heart to Toe

by: Susan Hopkins, Ed. D, Executive Director of Safe and Caring

“Healthy mind, healthy body,” my mom would always say. I often catch myself echoing old adages my mother still sprinkles throughout her everyday conversation: “When it rains, it pours,” “a picture is worth a thousand words” and yes, “healthy mind, healthy body.” The original Latin version of this actually reads: “Mens sana in corpore sano” or “a sound mind in a sound body.” It’s the “in,” or the idea of a holistic perspective on wellness that has my attention today.

As I looked over the infographic that Safe and Caring created for Mental Health Week with the ATA and CMHA – Edmonton (snapshot included in this bulletin), I am reminded of the interconnectedness of physical and mental health. Adequate sleep, daily exercise, time outdoors and healthy eating all support stronger mental health. Consider for example the impacts of stress on our body and brain, and how both work together to protect us throughout our lives.

Just as physical health means more than freedom from a specific physical illness, when I talk about mental health, I mean more than avoiding or overcoming illness. The anti-stigma movement has made huge strides for those suffering from mental illnesses, but there is still an “us” and “them” feeling around mental health. We accept that conversations of physical health apply to everyone, why not mental health? I look forward to the day when the term “mental health” does not require clarification that we are speaking about being healthy from head to heart to toe, and that what is happening in our brain is inseparable from what is happening in our body.

So this month, use the reminder of Mental Health Week to nurture and celebrate “Mens sana in corpore sano,” physical and mental wellness. Spend time with loved ones, take a walk in nature, go to the symphony, star-gaze, go for a bike ride, take a yoga class, get a good night’s sleep by turning off your electronics at least two hours before bed, eat your veggies, laugh. But most of all, recognize the brain-body connection as you take care of your health, and find ways to give your brain and body what you need to feel healthy inside and out.

This article appeared in our May 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

RESOURCE: Keys to Mental Wellness and Happiness, from one student to another…

photoOnly one week until Mental Health Week (May 4-10, 2015)!

As part of our work to promote positive mental health this month, Safe and Caring partnered with Timurlane Cakmak, student at the University of Alberta and the heart and sould behind the on-campus Impact Wellness Initiativ,e to develop this tip sheet.

Drawing on his own personal wellness journey, including his experience as a yoga instructor, Timurlane wrote this list of strategies to help his fellow students feel their very best – mentally, phsycially, emotionally and spiritually.

Whatever your age, these practice, down-to-earth strategies are a great place to start if you are looking for ways to celebrate and nurture your own mental wellness and happiness.

Check out this resource for yourself! 


COMMUNITY: Celebrating the LG’s Circle on Mental Health

Lovely words from our partners at the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction. To learn more about the Circle and His Honour’s work supporting Albertans’ mental health, visit:


His Honour, Col. [Ret’d] the Hon. Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta: “Since its creation in 2011, the central goal of the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction has been to foster understanding, awareness and compassion. Working together with many of the outstanding mental health teams and organizations in place across Alberta, we’re focused on making it safe for people to reach out for help and to talk openly and honestly about mental health. My hope for our youngest citizens is a province where no one ever suffers in silence and where the path to recovery is always open. I hope that all young Albertans can enjoy the benefits of positive mental health…to be resilient and strong in times of challenge…to feel the support and encouragement of a caring circle around them…and to be confident and engaged in a way that allows the best of who they are to shine through.”



Dr. Glynnis Lieb, Executive Director, LG’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction: “Part of the LG Circle’s uniqueness is that all of its resources are devoted to providing the annual True Awards as well as public events that promote mental health awareness and stigma reduction. We are fortunate to be able to focus 100% of our efforts on helping to keep the conversation going, and to let Albertans who are facing mental health challenges know that they are not alone…that they can reach out for supports and that they deserve to receive them.”



by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator

Robyn_Blackadar_-_March_2014As President and CEO of Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research (The Centre), an organization dedicated to creating and mobilizing evidence to ensure the well-being of children, Robyn Blackadar is one of Safe and Caring’s valued partners and fellow champions for child and youth well-being.

Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration, Robyn’s career prior to joining The Centre cultivated her expertise in research, policy analysis, policy implementation, knowledge mobilization and evaluation.

In her current role, Robyn draws on this background to oversee The Centre’s diverse research priorities, including: early childhood development; middle childhood and youth well-being; family capacity building; community capacity building; and tracking long-term outcomes.

This work includes Co-Chairing the Early Childhood Development Research and Innovation Strategy, which aims to build awareness of existing research, influence creation of new knowledge and create a collaborative environment that enhances relationships between researchers, policy makers, practitioners and the public to the benefit of early childhood development.
In Robyn’s experience, the collaborative element of this work is essential, because different stakeholders often have very different priorities for research. “One of the best things you can do is bring together researchers, policy makers, community members, service providers, caregivers and youth and have them talk and be more clear and coordinated around what knowledge is needed… and start to synergize more sustainable connections between the different roles, the different contexts and the different incentives.

In addition to their focus on knowledge exchange and mobilization, The Centre also generates evidence that supports policy decisions that directly help children, youth and families.

For Robyn, “information is not knowledge until you do something with it.” Adults need to know how to best benefit the children in their lives, and The Centre’s role is to help them access the information they need to make the best decisions possible.

“Your child is being influenced by many adults. We need all of the adults in a child’s life—grandparents, teachers, neighbours, friends—to understand and be mindful of their shared responsibilities and impact.”

“Your child is being influenced by many adults. We need all of the adults in a child’s life—grandparents, teachers neighbours, friends—to understand and be mindful of their shared responsibilities and impact.”

As a grandmother herself, Robyn is thankful for the opportunity to be a vital part of her grandson’s life, and mindful of her own and others’ impact on his early development.

This article appeared in our March 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!