The Current Mental Health Pandemic

About the Series

Date(s): Wednesdays, April 17 - May 15, 2024
Time: 9:30 to 11:30 am
Place:  In-person at St. Paul's Centre in Orillia & Virtual
Price:  $65 + HST for the whole series; $15 + HST for a single talk.

Recordings will be sent to registered participants following each talk.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 5 million people in Canada in 2022 met the diagnostic criteria for a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder, with the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders increasing substantially over the previous 10 years. The same study, released by Statistics Canada last fall, found that the proportion of Canadians aged 15 years and older with a generalized anxiety disorder doubled from 2012 to 2022, with similar increases seen for major depressive episodes and bipolar disorders.

As the world continues to grapple with the aftermath of the global pandemic, it's becoming increasingly evident that another crisis is looming: the mental health pandemic.

This spring, Third Age Learning Lakehead will delve into the complex world of mental health. Featuring renowned academic leaders and professionals working in the field of mental health, we’ll examine topics like substance abuse disorders, innovations in treatment, the impact of mental illnesses on family members, and resiliency. 

The Biopsychosocial/Medical Model of Serious Mental Illness


Dr. Tanya Shute
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

In this lecture, Tanya will facilitate some introductory content from the biopsychosocial/ medical model of what is referred to as serious mental illness/diagnosis and will offer perspectives from the disability movement on what is referred to as these extreme states or mental distress. She will draw upon her experience of almost 15 years of working in community mental health/problematic substance use/homelessness, as well as her academic background in Critical Disability/Mad Studies. Prevalence and pervasiveness will be discussed, including the shifting terrain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis of the toxic drug supply. An intersectional lens as well as the complex relationship with the social and structural determinants of mental health will be covered. Tanya will work from several standpoints on this introductory material, including a critical disability perspective reflective of people with lived experience/expertise, as well as an anti-carceral standpoint, to reflect the broad range of perspectives on matters such as the Diagnostic Statistics Manual and common methods of intervention based on the Ontario Mental Health Act.

Tanya Shute (MSW, PhD) is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Laurentian University, as is a registered social worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Services Workers. Prior to her role at Laurentian University, Tanya taught in the Social Services programs at Seneca College, and was the primary author of their Bachelor of Community Mental Health and Addictions degree program. Prior to her life in academia, Tanya worked front line in community mental health/problematic substance use/homelessness for 15 years. Tanya's research is focused on community-based projects, currently focused on community mental health and the psychiatric consumer/survivor and peer support movement, 2SLGBTQ+ social services, and policy research. Tanya grew up in Barrie and worked in Orillia for many years as a university student -- and is very excited about returning to one of her favourite communities to meet new friends and colleagues -- and stop at one of her favourite haunts, the Mariposa Market!

Addictions: The Power of Language and the Resulting Issues

Heidi Stanley

Heidi Stanley
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

As a branch of mental health, the field of addictions is vast and multilayered. In order to work together as people committed to both understanding and dealing with the ravages of substance abuse, it is important that we all speak the same language. Through this lecture, Heidi offers an invitation to explore the world of addictions through our understanding of our biases and their roots. This is a field where words matter, as our understandings colour the way we measure our successes – and failures – as a larger community. The challenges in front of substance abusers may seem insurmountable. Addiction language and the resulting issues have the ability to enhance or detract from the lives of addicts. She will introduce some ‘food for thought,’ asking questions like “Can one ever truly recover from an addiction?” and “Can one be addicted to chocolate?” Heidi will discuss how,  by shifting our own perspectives, we might be able to better support folks on their journeys to an improved mental wellness.

Heidi Stanley, B.A, B.Ed., M.Ed. is a retired college teacher. After her previous life as the coordinator and co-designer of Georgian College’s award-winning post-graduate program in addictions counselling, she continues to be passionate about the issues that make the world of addictions so challenging. With thirty years of teaching experience, she’s learned from her encounters with unique populations, including those in indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and local disadvantaged youth. Heidi has represented the college on a number of boards and community task forces. She is one of the founding members of the Canadian Problem Gambling Certification Board and a longtime member of community groups supporting addictions treatment including Green Haven’s Shelter for Women and Seven South Street Recovery Home for men. Heidi has an extensive background in education, addictions and community development making her a valuable support for you on your journey to understanding addictions.




Chris Peacock & Linda Goodall
Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Chris Peacock & Linda Goodall will speak to the local situation regarding mental health. Full lecture summary TBA.


 Anthony Murkar
Dr. Anthony Murkar
Wednesday, May 8, 2024

 Anthony will discuss innovations in treatments. Full lecture summary TBA.

Dr. Anthony Murkar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Lakehead Orillia campus. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Trent University, as well as PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Ottawa. Following his PhD, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research where he worked with people who had lived experience of (often severe) mental health conditions. Afterwards, he completed a fellowship with the Impact and Innovation Unit through Impact Canada.Dr. Murkar has considerable experience in teaching and has published numerous papers in the areas of neuropharmacology of medicinal plants. His primary research focuses on pre-clinical studies of novel pharmaceutical interventions for fear-based disorders (such as anxiety and PTSD). His secondary research focus is on sleep and biological rhythms, with a particular focus on the role of sleep in nocturnal memory processing.

Coping with Loss in Times of Crisis: How to Thrive, not Just Survive

 Glenn Robitaille

Glenn Robitaille
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

 The Mental Health Commission of Canada suggests the number of  Canadians who will experience a mental health crisis in their lifetime rose from 2 to 3-out-of-5 in the early days of the pandemic.  Many discovered in these times that protecting mental health is a 5-out-of-5 challenge all people must manage. Staying positive while battling loss of control requires focus, along with workable strategies for increasing resilience. In this talk, Glenn will discuss specific losses one can experience. He will also provide tools to assist in coping with the adjustments life often requires. Resilience is possible when we know our best approach to loss.  Here is a clue: It is not the same answer for everyone.

Glenn Robitaille is the Director of Ethics and Spiritual Care at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care and a Registered Psychotherapist (RP) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). He is the ethics lead at Waypoint, providing 100+ ethics consultations annually for clinical and corporate questions. Glenn has nearly 40 years of experience in addiction and mental health and proven competencies as a health care-provider, leader, innovator, educator and administrator. He is certified as a Mental Health First Aid trainer through the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the co-lead of the Traumatic Incident Support Team at Waypoint, providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) at Waypoint and in our community for 20 years. Glenn has acted as chair for the Waypoint Research Ethics Board (REB) since 2009 and the Ethics Committee since 2008. He regularly represents Waypoint on issues of mental health with local media and provides keynote addresses and workshops across the US and Canada. Glenn loves to write and is a contributing author in numerous books. He has also published two novels: Bending Light (2014) and In Praise of Uncertainty (2015). His latest book, a collection of essays written to Waypoint staff during the pandemic, will be released by Borealis Press later this year.

How to Buy Tickets

The Spring 2024 session of Third Age Learning Lakehead will be delivered in person at the St. Paul's Centre in Orillia and virtually. Light refreshments (coffee and cookies) will be served if attending in-person. Please bring a reusable mug. 

Tickets for the series are $65 plus HST.