SHRC Announces New Executive Director

The Self-Help Resource Centre’s (SHRC) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Chrystal Dean as the new Executive Director.

“We are excited to have Chrystal join the SHRC team in an exciting time for growth and expansion,” said Michelle Westin, Vice-President of SHRC. “Chrystal brings great energy and a wealth of experience building and growing community and service organizations through partnership.”

The Executive Director of SHRC is responsible for providing overall direction and management of the organization, as well as the implementation of a new strategic plan.

Chrystal’s experience includes the role of WorldPride Manager for Pride Toronto, where she steered one of the largest international events ever hosted in Toronto, with over 2 million participants, and a $719 million economic impact, and serving as Vice-President of TasPride in Australia through a transition from small community organization to presenter of major events on the national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT) calendar, including a two-week arts and cultural festival.

SHRC strengthens communities across Ontario by promoting peer support groups that facilitate positive outcomes for people who are facing diverse life transitions and challenges. This is done in collaboration with dedicated staff, volunteers, partners and community members through outreach, networking, capacity building, consultation, resource development, and knowledge exchange.

“Chrystal will be looking to build new partnerships and opportunities to promote peer-support as a part of everyday life, whether in the workplace, at home, or anywhere in between,” said Westin. “As the capacity of services is constantly stretched, there is a great opportunity for support in the shared knowledge and lived experience of individuals.”

Chrystal said, “I am thrilled to take on the role of Executive Director. I believe in the power of community, and I’ve seen how the people of Toronto and greater Ontario can come together to create a place where everybody feels welcome.

When people gather with common purpose and experience, movements are created. Communities build organically, and are based on the idea of peer support: “I belong here; these people understand what it’s like to be me in this time.” We all seek this support every day, in all kinds of ways. And it’s essential for our health and wellbeing.”

A big thank you to outgoing Executive Director, Mark Freeman, whose passion, commitment and energy for self-help and peer-support took SHRC into new places in the past year!

Watch this space for exciting news about programming and partnerships in the coming months!

About Chrystal

Chrystal has spent the last nine years working with producers of arts and culture in Toronto, London and Australia to entertain, educate and transform lives by providing a platform to those global stories and voices yet to be heard. Her most recent role as WorldPride Manager for Pride Toronto saw her steer one of the largest international events ever hosted in Toronto, dubbed an historic and overwhelming success. In 2014, Chrystal was listed by Toronto Star as one of eight local heroes for her commitment to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT) community, was officially recognized by the City of Toronto for her contribution to WorldPride, and received a “Rainbow Warrior 2014” award “for outstanding support for international LGBT solidarity and LGBT culture” as awarded by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network.

As Vice President of TasPride in Tasmania, Australia, she saw the non-profit organization through a transition from a small community organization to a presenter of major events on the national LGBTIQ calendar, including a two-week arts and culture festival. She spent five years working for the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts running signature recognition events and conferences for the sport and recreation, and screen (film, television and digital media) industries. Here she created a department-wide, 80-strong community-of-practice for event managers, to share knowledge, education opportunities and support.

Chrystal specializes in capacity building, strategic partnerships, brand, and marketing communications. She holds a BA in Communication Studies, with majors in Public Relations and Media Production. She is passionate about equity, education, self-determination, and social justice.

For more information

Contact: shrc[AT]

Full press release here.

Photo credit:

What is Peer Support?

The Self-Help Resource Centre defines peer support as a process of sharing common experiences, situations or challenges. Peer support is an exchange of getting and giving support. It involves the practice of self-care and sharing “what works”. Peer Support is not based on medical models of illness and disorder, rather it is the provision of emotional, practical and informational supports by people with lived experiences, to cultivate mutual empowerment. Peer support initiatives are run by and for the participants.

Making Ideas Tangible


When you’re having tough discussions, especially about something like mental health, which people are equally passionate and anxious about, making the ideas and beliefs in the conversation tangible can help to empower everybody to speak openly as well as diffuse conflicts by keeping the discussion focused on the ideas, not the people speaking them. Mark wrote about this technique recently on the Mental Health x Design blog with regards to how it can help with mental health discussion on university and college campuses. CLICK HERE TO READ MARK’S ARTICLE

It’s a technique that’s easily adapted to any meeting and it will give the attendees a visible landscape of ideas they can navigate. Try it out at your next support group meeting!


Group Name: EVERYBODY HAS A BRAIN – Toronto

Area(s) of Focus: Recovery, Mental Illness, Mental Health, Anxiety Disorders, Addictions, Meditation, Prevention, Exercise, Nutrition

Description: We focus on maintaining and improving great mental health by supporting each other in eliminating unhealthy compulsions, learning how to embrace uncertainty, and bringing healthy changes into our lives.

We recognize that everybody has a brain, so everybody has varying levels of improvable mental health. We are open to everybody, regardless of any labels or diagnoses you’ve stumbled across before. We put health first, not illness first. And in moving towards a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life, we are all peers that can support each other.

Checkout the EVERYBODY HAS A BRAIN YouTube channel to get an idea for our approach to dealing with mental health challenges:

Where: Self-Help Resource Centre, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, over the Deer Park Library.

When: TBD see Meetup page for current info:


5 Questions about Youth Outreach

We sat down with our very own Linda Owusu, Youth Outreach Coordinator, to ask her five questions about her youth peer support group workshops:

Q: What are your Youth Supporting Youth workshops all about?

A: My workshops are tailored around peer support and effective skills needed to start and sustain youth led support groups, such as, communication skills, conflict resolution, active listening, confidentiality and leadership.

Q: Why is learning about peer support groups valuable to youth?

A: Learning about peer support groups is very valuable to youth because the adolescent/youth stages can be a very vulnerable and lonely stage for some youth who feel they do not have any peers or support or anybody to talk to. When youth learn what peer support entails, they can empower each other through leadership and gain confidence though group discussions and ongoing consistent support. They begin to recognize their own uniqueness through peer support groups.

Q: What types of exercises do you do in the workshops?

A: During the youth peer support group workshops we work on skill building exercises, such as emotional strength building and public speaking, which is very essential because it builds a lot of confidence in our youth. We then focus and expand on ideas and topics that youth what to talk about when they are running their own youth groups in the future. I do these exercises because sometimes the idea of starting a peer support group sounds bigger than it really is, so when you give the youth the opportunity themselves to decide topics of interest and develop group names, they’ve already began the process of a peer support group without even realizing it, which is empowering for them.

Q: Why are basic communication and leadership skills so important to peer support?

A: Those skills are  important for peer support youth groups because in order to sustain a positive, honest, supportive group, we need youth that carry themselves as leaders in and out of the group. That helps build high self esteem for our youth.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of youth peer support groups?

A: I believe that with community support, and enough resources these youth peer support groups will be very successful in the future. Youth really need programs in their communities, where they can come together on a consistent basis. They need a safe haven where they can feel comfortable enough to share experiences and stories and grow through that process.

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