Mental Health Commission of Canada


HEADSTRONG is an evidence-based anti-stigma initiative created by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). It inspires youth ages 12-18 to Be Brave, Reach Out and Speak Up about mental health. Now a national initiative, HEADSTRONG teaches students how to reduce stigma and become mental health champions in their schools.  

HEADSTRONG is a program that has helped young adults overcome stigma and create opportunities to discuss mental health more openly.

HEADSTRONG consistently shows improvement in the attitudes and behaviours of youth aged 12 and up who participate in their workshops. It has been successful in reaching diverse populations and helping young people to normalize discussion around mental health and mental illness, increase earlier help-seeking, share messages of recovery and instill hope into their school and community. 

HEADSTRONG delivers positive change

Over 5 years, our leading researchers evaluated 60 anti-stigma programs. HEADSTRONG was born from the best evidence. Launched at a national summit in Ottawa in November 2014, HEADSTRONG brought together youth from across the country committed to — and excited about — creating positive change.

Why focus on stigma?

Stigma is keeping many people from seeking the help they need when they need it most.

  • 40% of parents admit they wouldn’t tell anyone, including a family doctor, if their child were experiencing a mental health problem.
  • 5 out of 6 young people diagnosed with needing support do not get professional help.

By empowering youth leaders to challenge stigma, we can help break this cycle.

How does HEADSTRONG work?

A 2-part model for change:

1) The Summit - A HEADSTRONG summit brings together small groups of students from various schools for an exciting day of learning. They will:

  • hear stories of hope and recovery from speakers with lived experience
  • participate in stigma-busting activities
  • design action plans to use when they return to school

A Summit Team supports the event, striving to ensure summit participants have a great experience and the goals of the summit are reached.

2) Taking HEADSTRONG to schools

Student summit attendees start an in-school HEADSTRONG committee with other interested students and the support of a staff member. Students use their own creativity and use the HEADSTRONG School Based Activity Toolkit to hold awareness and education activities for the whole school.

These activities usually take place once or twice a month and can be simple as simple as a poster display, or more involved like a resource fair or student assembly.

Get involved

Email for more information about participating in or hosting a HEADSTRONG summit.

Read more about the success of MHCC HEADSTRONG in the MHCC’s HEADSTRONG Youth Anti-Stigma Initiative 2014-15 Final Report.

Watch the MHCC HEADSTRONG video  /  Watch the First Nations, Métis and Rural HEADSTRONG Summit video