DIY de-stressor guide

Published on The Toronto Observer.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has launched a personalized program to help adults deal with depression, low mood, stress and anxiety, just in time for the holidays.

The CMHA servicing York and South Simcoe region released a self-guided mental health program series of workbooks and DVDs through its Bounce Back Program. The program consists of an instructional DVD, 16 workbooks, personal coaching and telephone support.

It is offered to adults who live in York Region or Simcoe County and have been referred to the program by their family doctor. Doctors test patients using PHQ9 tests, also known as the Nine Symptom Checklist, to determine whether or not they’re suited for the program.

Did you know?

– Every year one in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem or illness. These instances cost the economy more than $50 billion.
– Women are almost twice as likely to suffer from major depression than men (10 vs. 25 per cent)

“It’s a questionnaire generalizing the history of a patient and determining how often they’re bothered with these problems,” said Karen Hicks, director of programs at CMHA York.

She said that the test includes a variety of questions, including whether the individual has little interest or pleasure in doing things.

Once referred by a doctor, coaches assess patients to determine they’re specific needs are which workbooks to assign. The first is titled, overcoming depression,  low mood and anxiety, and the second is ‘understanding why I feel as I do.’

Of the list of workbooks available, most patients will require eight or nine. They deal with topics such as noticing extreme or unhelpful thinking, practical problem solving, information for family and friends and planning for the future.

DIY tips for de-stressing

– The mineral magnesium has been proven to calm cells and act as a de-stressor as well as a de-toxifier.
– Being in a constant state of “fight or flight” can raise your blood pressure, increase the risk or heart attack and stroke, suppress the immune system and make you vulnerable to mental and emotional issues.
– A 20-minute walk or jog can improve your mood for 12 hours.
– Processed food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress. Omega-3 fatty acids, can help you cope with stress better.
– Changing your habit loops and rewards can help you break out of harmful routines
– Repeating positive affirmations can help you overcome negative thoughts.

Regular exercise improves mental and physical health.

Regular exercise has been shown to improve mental as well asphysical health.

“Those two are usually the starting point for most people,” Hicks said. “But it depends how severe the case is,” she added.

Coaches work with patients throughout the process, which takes about two to three months to complete, said Hicks.

The program has been clinically proven effective in areas across the country. Since debuting in British Columbia in 2008, more than 100,000 people have used the DVDs and reported significant decreases in the severity of depression.

According to the Toronto Distress Centre, initiatives such as these are particularly necessary during the holiday season when cases of depression typically increase.

The Man Behind the Bowties

The original article was published in full by
Dan “Kobi” Amponsah is the CEO of Brampton-based custom bow tie company, Neck Couture.

Kobi, 26, was a student at Sheridan College when he was struck with inspiration and decided to start his own business in 2013. Kobi was passionate about fashion and looking for a way to incorporate his creativity into his business.

Using personal attributes such as someone’s name or characteristics Kobi is able to create designs that align with the needs of his clients. Iconic director Spike Lee and Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall are two of the people Kobi has designed for. Kobi has featured his Neck Couture bow ties at several events including Hand’s of a Hero Foundation’s Fashion Against Poverty, Kendal Blake’s The Foundation and The Showcase Your Roots Fashion Show in Waterloo.

Kobi’s designs feature many different patterns and materials, including some that reflect different African tribes, such as the kente cloth which is found in West Ghana.  Kobi is very proud of his Ghanian heritage and likes to talk to his customers about the rich history behind his bow ties.

One of the materials you use often is the kente cloth from Ghana, why is including different fabrics and materials important for you and your business?
It’s important to me and to other people because your product has more value if there’s a story behind it. The kente cloth has different meaning for different tribes in Ghana, so you’re getting a bow tie and a story. The craftsmanship of making the kente cloth is interesting as well so all that together makes for an amazing bow tie.

I see you have one of your wooden bow ties on, when did you get to the stage of wanting to create something that goes beyond the regular bow tie?
I take time to be creative and that’s really important. Your mind is always working so why not take advantage of that and create new ideas. Every week I set time aside to write out ideas and concepts; not only for my business but life in general.

Kobi met Spike Lee at an event. He walked right up to the director and introduced himself. Kobi gave Spike Lee some of his bow ties and he loved instantly loved them.

When someone orders a custom-made tie you have consultations with them to find out what they’re looking for, what are those consultations like?  
I let the person talk and see what they want. I like to find out about the person, what style of tie they normally wear, whether or not they’re a conservative person, some people have that trust in me because they’ve seen what I’ve done before. It’s all about seeing where they’re at.

You can place an order for a custom bow tie through Or connecting via Instagram@NeckCouture.


Pride and permanence: Toronto-themed tattoos

Written by for the Toronto Observer.
Toronto had a lot to be proud of in 2015. There was the successful hosting of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, three of our four major sports teams made it to the post-season, plus Drake and The Weeknd dominated the Billboard Charts. Some Torontonians were so proud they decided to show it permanently.
After waiting 22 years for a playoff spot, the Blue Jays and their fans were launched into hysteria when Jose Bautista’s three-run home-run clinched the American League Division Series. Baustista celebrated the hit with his now-viral bat flip. Blue Jays “superfan” Bryan Bevins decided to mark the occasion with a tattoo of Bautista’s bat-flip on his thigh.

Bevins wasn’t the only one to celebrate Toronto’s success with a with ink.
One Torontonian got a large tattoo of Scarborough-native Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye on his leg earlier this year. The R&B-singer enjoyed a hugely successful 2015 which included seven Grammy Nominations, two-almost-sold-out shows at the Air Canada Centre and holding the top two positions on Billboard’s Hot 100; the latter being the first time a Canadian accomplished the feat.

This year was also a good year for the “6 god”, Drake. The rapper (real name Aubrey Graham) started off the year with the release of his fourth mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” The mixtape spawned countless memes as well as 17 tracks on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. The album only had 17 tracks. Drake also matched The Beatles record of having 100 of their songs chart on the Hot 100. And if that wasn’t enough for Drizzy, he almost broke the internet in late October when he released the video for his single “Hotline Bling.” The video has inspired everything: Halloween costumes, Christmas sweaters, parodies, jewellery and tattoos.

As odd as these particular tattoos may seem, seeing people with body art has become more in Canada. According to Lightspeed Research 22 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men have at least one tattoo. Even our prime minister has one. Justin Trudeau has a tattoo planet Earth inside a Haida raven on his left shoulder, making him the only current world leader with a (known) tattoo.

Tattoo artists and their clients believe that tattoo culture isn’t a sign of delinquent behaviour but rather a legitimate art movement. The amount of people with inked skin suggests that some of the taboo surrounding tattoos is starting to fade away. In 2010, Pew Research Centre reported in 2010 that 38 per cent of millennials (then the 18-29 age bracket) acknowledged having at least one tattoo.

By Nazaneen Baqizada

Tattooing has become so popular some people are even getting their eyeballs tattoo’d.Seriously.

For those who aren’t thrilled about the prospect of having demonic eyes here’s an infrographic to let you know a little bit more about tattoo placement.

By Marcus Medford

We sat down with local-tattoo artist Justin Murphy of Adrenaline Toronto to talk about the shift in tattoo culture:

Councillors lobby to feature women on banknotes

Published on the Toronto Observer.

Last month Justin Trudeau reminded Canadians that “it’s 2015” when he announced that his Cabinet would be gender balanced. However, some Canadians are still not satisfied with the representation of women in Canada.

City councillors Mary Fragedakis of Toronto-Danforth and Marvin Rotrand of Snowden in Montreal have written to Finance Minister William Francis Moreneau asking that more women be featured on Canadian bank notes.

The letter is a reaction to another from Stephen Poloz, the governor of the Bank of Canada, indicating that more women may feature on the next series of bank notes. The councillors are hoping for a more “proactive” response from the government.

“We ask that the new government let the Bank of Canada and the Royal Mint know that promoting equality is a fundamental Canadian value,” Rotrand wrote.

No women have been featured on Canadian bank notes since the $50 bill from the 2001 Journey Series, which honoured Thérèse Casgrain and the Famous Five.

Historian and author Merna Forster has been campaigning to have more females celebrated on Canadian banknotes for years. Forster is the author of the book, 100 Canadian Heroines, and raised money for a statue of famous artist Emily Carr in Victoria, B.C.

After Casgrain and the Famous Five were removed from banknotes in 2011, Forster “felt it was necessary” to start a campaign. In 2013, Forster launched a petition with to have more women featured on Canadian money. The petition has gained more than 64,000 signatures.

Her goal is to “ensure the amazing women from Canadian history are not forgotten,” she said.

Jean Augustine, former Minister of Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, was involved with the motion that got Casgrain and the Famous Five on the old $50 bill. Augustine believes it’s important to honour the women who have contributed to Canada’s history.

“It gives credence that women are respected and acknowledged for their contributions,” Augustine said.

Augustine remarked that Trudeau’s decision to have a gender-balanced Cabinet sends a “great message” and creates role models for women. She added that it’s important that Canada’s diversity be represented in our every day lives.

“If you can’t see yourself there it becomes harder to get there,” Augustine said.

Fragedakis believes Trudeau’s decision will affect how both men and women think of females in the political sphere.

“I think it’s a signal to men in society that we’re all equal,” she commented.

When it comes to making decisions that impact everyone, Fragedakis said it’s important to have multiple perspectives.

“Gender is one aspect of diversity in our society and we have to reflect our society in it’s truest form,” she added.

England and Austrailia have already chosen some women to be the face of their currency. England is introducing a 10-pound note that will feature novelist Jane Austen and Australia has a man on one side and a woman on the other for most of it’s banknotes.

Merna also worked with to create a website where people can suggest notable Canadian women who could be featured on banknotes. There is an interactive tool that customizes an image of the $100 bill and let’s users share their suggestions.

Learn about distinguished Canadian women in the timeline here:

Inspiring quotes by powerful women. Watch the video below:

How much is your degree worth?

Generation Why is a financial advice website for millennials by millennials. 
Generation Why's goal is to teach you the lessons about money school forgot to. 
Read more here.

The following is a curated list outlining the costs of various degrees in Canadian universities.


In case you hadn’t noticed, tuition fees for Canadian universities are really high. The average cost of tuition for a Canadian full-time student is $5,959 a year (if you want to know how much the average tuition is for your specific program) which accumulates to about $27,000 once you factor in fees at the end of a four-year degree. One woman managed to pay it off her debt in just 3 years. The mountain of student fees that international students face is even more daunting and their tuition fees usually go unregulated, in 2013 the average cost of tuition for an international student was $19,514… for just one year of study.

The Canadian Centre for Police Alternatives report says the cost of tuition has tripled since 1993 and is said to increase 13% by 2018. So in Ontario, where students pay the highest tuition fees in the country, their tuition will go from an average of 7,539 as of 2014 to $7,755 by 2017-18.

These massive student fees are a part of the reason Canadians owe $1.65 for every $1 they have of disposable income. Many financial experts suggest millennials live at home with their parents so they can save money and pay off their student debts. In the States, it’s estimated that millennials who live at home cost their parents $2,300 a year. American students take on about $35,000 in debt for their undergraduate degrees.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, besides you gotta spend money to make money, think of your education as an investment in your future. The median annual earnings for full time workers was  $41,600 for college graduates, $53,000 for bachelor graduates, $70,000 for master’s graduates and $75,000 for doctorate graduates.

If you want an even more specific calculation of how much your degree is worth, you can check out this fancy calculator that will tell you the value of your degree.