Part 3: Panel and Participant Reflections

Author: Karen Copeland

Please read part one here.

Please read part two here.

At this point, the question and response period for the panel ended and we moved into the next phase of the session: finding out from the parents what they thought and felt during the session. This was a critical piece of the process that was missing the first time we conducted the parent panel. We felt it was incredibly important for the professionals in the room to understand why the parents decided to participate on the panel, what they had hoped to accomplish by doing so, and whether or not they felt like they had made a difference.

Question One: What are some things that stood out for you today during this experience?

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  • From the expressions on the faces of the people in the room, I feel heard and understood.
  • This breaks down the feelings of isolation, that I can be here and be heard.
  • I feel like I’ve seen and experienced growth, by feeling like I can speak out a bit more freely I am going to do better for my kids

Question Two: What was your biggest fear in coming here today?

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  • Always the fear of judgement.
  • I had a fear that I would share too much



Question Three: What might have made it safe to share here today?

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  • All the pre-work with Karen and Laurie. The constant connecting throughout the process.
  • I was on the panel in December 2013, I feel much more engaged today.
  • The other parents on the panel having the courage to vulnerable, helped me to be vulnerable too

Question Four: What have you learned about yourself…and of other parents today?

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  • This really reinforced that I am not alone.
  • It is incredibly easy to isolate ourselves from the world when things are challenging, we really need to continue connecting with each other and supporting one another

Question Five: How does this experience impact you moving forward in your journey?

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  • This cements in me my desire to make a difference in my community. To keep going. To know that I can make a difference.


Question Six: What has it meant for you to be heard in this way today?

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  • I remember when I did the first panel. Before it started I felt like a weak parent, and I walked out of it feeling empowered. I realized I could start using my voice to make a difference, and I started a job where I was able to utilize my experience to assist other families who were just starting to navigate systems, or who were experiencing challenges.

Question Seven: What is one word you would use to describe how you are feeling right now?

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The final portion of our session involved a reflection from the people who were sitting in the room, listening to the panel. Here are some of the comments that were provided:

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  • As a youth, I have gained a new appreciation for what my mom went through, and I wish she could have experienced something like this when I was growing up.
  • I feel empathy. I am very thankful for you to have come and shared your experiences with us.
  • This was a reminder of how as professionals we can sometimes create burnout in our families. How do we look at changing this?
  • I’m angry and perplexed. Our government has a surplus. We hear and need these ideas from families – how can we find a pathway into that surplus so that families can be supported in the ways they need?
  • This re-fuels my commitment
  • I am proud and grateful for the panel being so open and vulnerable. The more we can talk about these things the better.
  • We learn a lot from academics that doesn’t even begin to touch on what you have taught me today
  • I am a social work professor in Ontario. I have taken so many notes, and will be sharing these with my students.
  • I am excited and inspired to go to work tomorrow.
  • The continuing importance to listen and then to say what you are hearing. How important it is to be present.
  • Not just being empathetic in our work, but also in our daily lives.
  • I build my teaching around MSW & BSW & Diploma students needing to KNOW their own personal story … not “suspending it” … as other profs teach.  I believe that social work & counseling professionals need to be “friends” with their own woundedness; they need to be acutely aware … and then develop the professional skills to “join” with the humanity of those they serve (as in invite people to be safe; listen DEEPLY; hear the emotional state of the people they serve, etc) … because they come from a place of KNOWING their own humanity. I was reminded again how important it is to 1). Listen deeply, respectfully and without judgement, and 2) to do my listening from a place of knowing my own woundedness as a person … so I can join with the woundedness of those I serve.

The energy and inspiration in the room during this session was incredible and impossible to describe. Laurie and I were very honoured that we were able to create the space for this very raw and vulnerable sharing to take place, and even more grateful with how this sharing was received.

I would like to take a moment to express huge gratitude to Impact Youth Substance Use Services. I am so thankful for their ongoing and strong support of bringing the parent voice forward in such a powerful way.

I posted this on my Champions for Community Mental Wellness Facebook page following the session:

I am incredibly honoured to have had the opportunity to facilitate a parent panel at the International Social Work conference earlier today. Laurie Schulz and I were able to create the space for the voices of five parents to SHINE and educate others. Two comments stand out the most for me.

One, from an Masters of Social Work student who said “I’ve learned more in this session than in seven years of school”

and the other from a parent on the panel, who said

“I feel like the shame I have carried has lifted, simply by sharing my voice and being heard”.

There are no words. This is what Champions is about. Creating spaces for these voices to be heard, valued and respected.

My gratitude to the five parents who embraced their vulnerability and shared their wisdom; to the people who embraced their curiousity and attend our session; and to Laurie, who continues to inspire and encourage me on my mission of creating a broader awareness and understanding of how mental health impacts children, youth and families in our communities.

It is our hope that more people will become interested in hosting a parent panel in their community – this is a very useful and safe way to bring the voices of parents forward to create more awareness and understanding of what the family journey is like. If you are interested in learning more about hosting a parent panel, we would love to speak with you! Click here to send us an email


One comment

  1. Loved all three of the posts. I feel like you captured what happened in that room that day. It was a very moving and emotional session for sure but one that was also very empowering. I too am hoping that more agencies and school districts will embrace this format and implement it to hear more from the parents and their lived experiences.


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