Introducing MINDS 2.0

Shara Thomas
March 27, 2023

Co-designing mental health social innovations in London-Middlesex

Did you know that more than 6.7 million Canadians are presently living with a mental health disorder? Mental health is a significant concern for Canadians, particularly the youth, as they frequently emerge early in life. Roughly one-third of young adults in Canada (aged 20 to 29) experience a mental illness in a given year. Evidently, the demand for timely mental health services in Canada is at an all time high, and unfortunately, the system and those providing services are under massive pressure because of it. 

This plight has challenged us, the MINDS team at Lawson Health Research Institute, to rethink how we approach mental health care – not only for patients, but also for those providing it. Achieving mental health and wellbeing for all is what inspired the inception of the first social innovation lab in Canada aimed at addressing the complex mental health system challenges evident in the community.

Free Woman Holding Man's Hand Stock Photo

The Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS), which began in 2018, has now engaged approximately 150 youth and provided them with access to a range of mental health and community support resources via 9 prototypes made with and for youth. Innovations, such as self-awareness tools, training modules, and educational resources, were stewarded to help youth manage their mental health and tackle the issues identified by them as being paramount to their wellbeing. 

Building on this success, the MINDS team is now excited to present MINDS 2.0, which is focused on addressing the needs of people experiencing complex and severe forms of mental ill-health, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and co-morbid substance use disorders. This iteration is co-led by MINDS and the Global MINDS Collective (a Canadian-federally registered charity that catalyzes mindful social innovators to foster self- and system- transformations for global mental health & well-being). While the previous iteration worked specifically with  transitional aged youth between the ages of 16 to 25 years, MINDS 2.0 will extend to working with young and emerging adults, who increasingly face vulnerability and marginalization, such as homelessness and social isolation. Moreover, they are at a higher risk of developing complex mental health disorders.

Traditional approaches to care typically do not include people with lived experience in designing and evaluating pathways to their mental health and wellbeing. However, at all levels of MINDS 2.0, they will be meaningfully engaged as experts of their own experience and co-drivers of change. Through the Mindful Social Innovation Training Program (Stream 1) and Prototyping Priority Complex Challenges Events (Stream 2), the aim is to bring people from diverse backgrounds together to connect with each other and share their lived experiences, in order to gain a better understanding of mental health issues. 

Mindful Social Innovation Training Program (Stream 1)

The MSI Training Program for hospital and community mental health professionals will focus on how local mental health providers and leaders from diverse sectors can effectively engage people with lived experiences (PWLE), their supporters, and other system stakeholders to tackle complex and severe mental health challenges facing young and emerging adults in the London-Middlesex region.

Prototyping Priority Complex Challenges (Stream 2)

The MINDS 2.0 Team will engage passionate and motivated people with lived experiences (PWLE) from marginalized, racialized and/or stigmatized communities to develop solutions for priority complex challenges. This will be done through ideating, prototyping, testing, and evaluating systems solutions using mindful social innovation approaches. MSI Imaginarium style events will connect and create a space for teams to create a functional prototype to address the priority complex challenge. Selected teams will be provided with the support needed to implement their solution.

These two streams will support the creation, implementation, and evaluation of solutions, as well as ongoing learning activities to reinforce the social innovation process.
Our participants, who range from community leaders to practitioners to organization reps, will undergo capacity building opportunities that will maximize their potential to co-design meaningful and sustainable innovations with and for people with complex mental ill-health.

Overall, the goal of MINDS 2.0 is to…

  1. Build deep and intentional collaborations with racialized and marginalized communities,

  2. Engage diverse experts and stakeholders in the user-centered systems and design thinking process, with an intentional and highlighted focus on the accounts of people with lived experiences themselves,

  3. Collectively create mental health system solutions to challenges that the communities themselves prioritize and are truly accessible and effective for these groups, and

  4. Create system innovation spaces that are inclusive, empowering and integrate capacity building and networking opportunities. 

MINDS 2.0 will revolutionize how we approach mental health challenges by engaging community members with the necessary tools, connections and resources to take care of themselves and their neighbours, so that all can live with flourishing mental health and wellbeing.

If you’d like to learn more or contribute to this work, please reach out to Shara Thomas via email ( or use our contact form.


You’re Invited to our 2022 MINDS Convening!

Melissa Taylor-Gates
November 04, 2022

The MINDS Convening 2022 will be an opportunity to share and celebrate the various interventions that have been successfully developed and our plan for their sustainable use and scale up. We will also be giving a sneak peek of the vision for MINDS 2.0! The convening is an opportunity to connect and get meaningfully involved moving forward. It is open to everyone in our community!

We ask that if you are attending as a member of an organization, that you reach out to invite a young or emerging adult (ages 16-30) as well! Lunch will be provided, as well as an honourarium for any youth and emerging adult who attend. Doors open at 8:30am.

We hope to see you there!

MINDS Convening Invitation


Melissa Taylor-Gates
October 17, 2022

The Road to Mental Health project is such an interesting intervention that’s come so far. When we started on this project, we talked about buying a bus and travelling around the county to help people receive services. Now we’ve partnered with a cab company and have provided support and transportation to dozens of youth who otherwise couldn’t receive services.

Our new version of the Road to Mental Health includes a new partnership with the Indigenous community and Checker Cab, starting in December 2022. 

While version one allowed only travel from rural areas into the city and back for crisis and mental health appointments, this new facet supports Indigenous youth travelling into the city for services AS WELL AS leaving the city to receive culturally appropriate services at Oneida Nation of the Thames, Chippewas of the Thames and Munsee-Delaware Nation.

All Checker drivers are currently being trained in Crisis Intervention and San’yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Safety Training to ensure that they are well-equipped to offer support. We hope to be able to provide transportation by December 1st, but stay tuned to our blog for updates!


Free transportation for youth poster


Welcome to the new MINDS Blog!

Lily Yosieph
October 03, 2022

My name is Lily and I am one of the Research Assistants at MINDS. Through this role, I am the EDI evaluator of the various prototypes leading up to MINDS 2.0, working committee member of Youth-Centered Adult Allyship and adult liaison of the Youth Mental Health and Addictions Council, also known as YMHAC.

YMHAC began in 2016 under the Transition Age Project (TAP), and its mission was to promote youth-centered practice in youth mental health care through advising and guiding hospital programs, initiatives and community agencies/organizations through authentic leadership, influence and decision making. I along with Alec Cook were the original founding members of YMHAC, and when TAP concluded 3 years later in 2019, MINDS took stewardship we were approached to be the council’s new facilitators, making YMHAC a fully youth-led prototype. With the help of the MINDS lab, YMHAC’s goal is to promote youth voice and participation, and to develop and research system-level change that leads to the development of Meaning and Purpose, Resiliency, and Quality Relationships for transitional-age youth (TAY). In my role as an adult liaison, I work with Alec to organize meeting agendas, provide updates from the MINDS lab and the council to one another regarding current and upcoming projects, encourage our council members to take the lead in making decisions, connect with others in the London-Middlesex community and across Canada who are doing similar advocacy work, and much more.

Over the past year, MINDS wanted to understand the experiences of transition-age youth who are members of a youth council and disseminated a survey centered largely on examining the experiences within the local mental healthcare system, their experiences as a member of YMHAC, and areas for future growth of the council. In addition to this manuscript in progress, Alec and I have been able to accomplish more than we expected with our council members since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: from our own networks and promotional material we were able to find approximately 12 youth who were interested in the mission of YMHAC, organized virtual meetings, had consistent attendance from members who maintained momentum through zoom, invited various guests who were interested in the work of YMHAC, and most importantly, guided our members through the completion of their guidebook project.

The guidebook is meant to provide mental health literacy to youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who want to support their peers experiencing mental health or addictions issues. We as the co-facilitators and members emphasize to readers that it is not a self-help book for youth to diagnose themselves or their peers, but it is a resource to help in starting conversations around these challenges. With the appropriate references, the members wrote the guidebook to be understood and accessible to transition-age youth. It covers topics like basic information about mental health, how to have conversations with friends around mental health and substance use, self-care, coping strategies, and more. Through Ardith Publishing, we hope to have physical and digital copies of the guidebook ready for sale, for free through selective distribution, and for our attendance at the IAYMH Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark! 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy exploring the new MINDS website!


In Memory of Eugenia Canas

Alec Cook
March 30, 2022

In memoriam of Dr. Eugenia Canas who passed away on June 18th, 2021. 

Eugenia was a thoughtful and considerate soul, beloved by her friends and colleagues. A role model, mentor, and source of strength, she was ever generous with her knowledge and time. Eugenia was that rare person who made everyone comfortable in her presence. She spoke to everyone with the utmost kindness and listened with a genuine interest in what they had to say. 

Eugenia joined MINDS in 2017 as the Director of Research. She was integral to developing MINDS’ values and research framework. As a champion for youth mental well-being, Eugenia worked to ensure that youth are centred in all of our work. As Director of Research, Eugenia played the part of mentor to MINDS’ youth research assistants and co-op students. She fostered a sense of equity and social justice, always encouraging her colleagues to think about how their research practices will affect the world. 

After leaving her role as Director of Research to pursue post-graduate work at Western University, Eugenia continued in her role as a mentor. She was a key collaborator on the youth-centred practice project. YCP youth-lead Alec hopes that YCP will live on as a testament to Eugenia’s tireless fight for youth voice and for youth to be authentically engaged in the issues and societal problems that affect them.  

MINDS wishes to thank Eugenia for her tremendous contributions to the social innovation lab. She will be missed by those who had the pleasure of working with her. 

Eugenia’s colleagues at Western have established a scholarship in her name which will provide funding support for a student in Western University’s Health Information Science Graduate Program. If you would like to make a donation, please visit: