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The Arts for Mental Health Conference

The time to deliver for mental health is now…

The Mississauga Arts Council in partnership with Mass Culture presented the virtual Arts for Mental Health Conference on October 6, 2021. This conference brought together health care practitioners and creative sector leaders to explore the rationale for, design and implementation of a pilot program that will deliver and expand arts programs to people living with mental health issues in Mississauga.

The A4MH Virtual Conference guiding principle was the presentation of a business case to examine the cost and benefits of providing Creative Experiences as mental health solutions for residents from moderate anxiety and depression.

Our Vision is of a healthy Province, in which effective arts programs and creative experiences are fully integrated into healthcare treatment practices.

Our Mission is to develop a pilot program for efficiently delivering creative experiences to people with moderate mental health problems.

Our Goal is to develop a practical, scalable blueprint for an arts for mental health program in Peel Region.

Our Strategy is to produce an educational Conference for examining the success and capacity of arts programs to provide effective relief to residents suffering anxiety and depression.

About the Arts for Mental Health Conference

The Conference’s Three Acts:

Act 1

Examining the Benefits: Bringing together the arts and health sector perspectives

Keynotes: This section will see keynote speakers share their lived experiences, communicating the role the arts can play in mental health.

Act 2

The Physiology of Creativity: To demonstrate and explore the impact the arts have on mental health.

Panel: from the perspective of a medical practitioner as well as someone who has benefitted from such practice.

Breakout Rooms: To get our minds moving and active, we will explore topics touching on possible paths forward, determined by participants’ interests.

Act 3

Living Case Studies: From the Field

Case Studies: What arts for mental health programs are currently available? How can creative experiences be added to current Link referral/prescription system? For one underserved neighbourhood, what would the pilot program integrating creative pathways to wellbeing look like?  Who could help, who could lead? Who are the decision-makers?

The Conference Conversation – Captured Visually:

The Arts for Mental Health Conference conversations and ideas were captured in this Miro Board which is a rich visual resource. Click to explore and learn!

Conference Speakers and Panelists:

Jennifer Buchanan

Jennifer’s Bio

I’m the Founder of JB Music Therapy (JBMT), a music therapy company that has been instrumental in the implementation of hundreds of music therapy programs throughout Canada for almost 30 years and has been thrice nominated for the Community Impact Award by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.  JBMT currently employes 18 Certified Music Therapists.
As the author of two award-winning books – ‘Tune In‘ and ‘Wellness Incorporated‘ I have become a trusted source for media outlets across North America including NBC, CBS, CTV, Global TV, Fox News Health, CBC Radio, and Television, and have been featured in publications such as The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Canadian Living.
I delve into advocacy and policy as the Executive Director (and past President) of the Canadian Association of Music Therapists and have been an invited keynote speaker at national and international conventions speaking on music therapy and health entrepreneurship to a wide variety of education, healthcare, government, small business, and corporate audiences.
The Canadian music therapy community generously presented me with two lifetime achievement awards; the Franni Award and the Norma Sharpe Award (although I am not yet retired).

Sonia Hsuing

Sonia’s Bio

Sonia Hsiung is the Project Lead, Communications and Stakeholder Relations at the Alliance for Healthier Communities, a network of 100+ community-governed, comprehensive primary health care organizations advancing health equity in Ontario. Sonia coordinated Ontario’s first social prescribing research project, implemented in Community Health Centres across diverse urban, rural, Francophone, and Northern regions in the province, which showed promising results in reduced loneliness, improved mental health, and increased integration between health and social care delivery. She currently leads Links2Wellbeing, a social prescribing initiative for older adults in partnership with the Older Adult Centres Association of Ontario. With experience in a range of sectors spanning from engineering, food security, housing, to health care, Sonia is keen to bring the strengths of diverse sectors together to build healthier and more connected communities.

Susan Ksiezopolski
Panel Moderator

Susan’s Bio

Susan Ksiezopolski, a graduate of the Humber School for Writers, is an award-winning poet. She has published two poetry collections, a writing aide and a writing journal illustrated by Angela Chao. Her work has been featured in several magazines and anthologies, and on-line platforms. Since her retirement, Susan has been actively giving back to her community, creating and sharing experiences that fuel a sense of well-being and support mental health through arts based programs.
Susan is a HeartMath Certified Building Personal Resilience Coach and founded WriteWell to create a path for wellness through expressive writing. For more information visit

Dr. Chanth Seyone

Dr. Seyone’s Bio

Dr. Seyone is a Fellow of the Royal college of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Psychiatry with additional post-fellowship training in Neuropsychiatry, Sleep Medicine and Community Psychiatry.  He is the Founding Director of the Acquired Brain Injury Clinic at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network.  This clinic was established by him to assess and manage patients with brain injuries acquired after birth. It also attempts to follow patients longitudinally. Recently, the clinic was relocated to a private practice in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
In addition, Dr. Seyone consults to several community-based brain injury organizations including CHIRS, MF, YSBIS, OMOD and BICR as well as various legal and insurance firms. He is active in teaching undergraduate, as well as graduate students, other doctors and allied health-care professionals as well as being on a few advisory committees involved with enhancing care for patients afflicted with a brain injury. He is on the academic faculty of the University of Toronto and holds the rank of Assistant Professor. He has won the prestigious Ivan silver Award for Excellence in Mental Health Education for a workshop titled “A Road Map to Acquired Brain Injury”. He is involved in research and has numerous publications and presentations to his credit.

Christine Long

Chris’ Bio

Why I do art
In 2004 I became ill very suddenly with MS. I lost most of my major motor skills including walking, sight, and the use of my dominant hand.
It was a long journey of recovery. But along the way I was introduced to art and used it to rewire my brain. I knew from my previous work that the brain was plastic and new pathways could be formed. So, I learned to paint with both hands.
I had never done art before although I had come from a long line of artists in the family. During my recovery my cousin, a printmaker, was teaching a course at the Halliburton School of Art. I joined her for a week along with my walker and a close friend. My cousin Linda Blix assured me that if I loved colour and could paint like a 5-year-old I could do her course. I had a blast!
I went on from there to take more courses from Linda, then from Visual Arts Mississauga and Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre. It was eye opening, but I could see the improvement and didn’t want it to stop.
I’ve met extraordinary people along the away. In 2016 I co-founded a group called ArtTrendZ: an Artist Collective. We’re a group of about 8 artists from around the globe who love art, good coffee, and sharing life together. We now do shows locally and in the greater GTA.
I’m a firm believer in art as a healer for the mind, body, and spirit. I love to play with colour and hope the joy in my art.

Kelly Straughan

Kelly’s Bio

Kelly is currently the Executive Artistic Director of Workman Arts, which is a multidisciplinary arts organization that promotes a greater understanding of mental health and addiction issues through creation and presentation. She is also the Vice President of the board for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). Kelly is the former Executive Director of the Toronto Fringe Festival and President of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. She previously held the position of Associate Artistic Director at Nightwood Theatre and was the Assistant Artistic Director at Tarragon Theatre for three seasons. She holds a Masters in Theatre Directing from the University of British build capacity in the long term care sector through innovations in training and education. 

Melissa Tafler

Melissa’s Bio

Melissa Tafler coordinates the Arts and Health program at Baycrest.  Melissa’s work involves leading the development, implementation and evaluation of initiatives that integrate the arts across clinical programs, education, research and evaluation.  Currently, Melissa is overseeing the Culture, Arts and Health Services portfolio of Baycrest@Home, a digital health program that connects older adults with dementia to arts based experiences to reduce social isolation and promote wellbeing through creative experiences.  Melissa also holds a position as the Arts Based Learning Specialist within the Ontario Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long Term Care, a Ministry of Health funded centre that aims to build capacity in the long term care sector through innovations in training and education.

Tanya Neumeyer
Artistic Rapporteur

Tanya’s Bio

Tanya Neumeyer is a queer poet and educator committed to access and equity. Tanya has been immersed in the spoken word community for 15 years and has produced two chapbooks with Thee Hellbox Press. They have created poems for conferences with Engineers Without Borders, Community Living’s provincial network, and the Alliance for Healthier Communities.

In addition to our virtual Arts for Mental Health Conference, we hosted a number of pre-conference events to inspire conversation, collect resources, and inform the conference.

Arts + Mental Health Datathon

September 7-9, 2021

The Arts + Mental Health Datathon was a three-day event that ran September 7-9, 2021 to collect research, resources, and projects that pertain to arts and mental health. Our goal, to collect the data in a central repository and make it available to artists, health care providers, and the public. This data will help inform the conference content and stimulate thoughtful conversation that will be carried through into the Arts for Mental Health Conference.

Pre-Conference Conversation

September 15, 2021

Attendance by invitation only

The A4MH Pre-Conference Conversation was a 1 hour gathering on September 15, 2021 from 2-3 PM (EDT). There are SO many innovative ideas on how the arts can have a positive impact on mental health and ways in which the arts and health sector can work together to bring some of these ideas into fruition. This conversation brought together thought leaders chosen for their expertise and advice to discuss these ideas and impacts.

Doctor Dinner

September 23, 2021

Attendance by invitation only

The Doctor Dinner was a 1 hour gathering on September 23, 2021 hosted by Dr. Colin Saldanha. Produced by MAC and Mass Culture, this dinner had 6 prominent doctors attend to share their knowledge, experiences, and ideas for how to incorporate the arts into their own medical practices and treatments. This dinner conversation informed the Arts for Mental Health Conference breakout room discussions.