How this insurance-led initiative aims to empower young Canadians

Program is "direct response" to issues important to Canada's youth

How this insurance-led initiative aims to empower young Canadians

Life & Health

By Mika Pangilinan

An insurance-led initiative has been launched to support young entrepreneurs who are dedicated to addressing the mental health crisis in Canada.

A joint initiative from Teachers Life and nowly Insurance, the Press Start CoLab program offers youth activists aged 18-29 the opportunity to collaborate and develop innovative solutions that will drive positive social change within their communities.

Martha Turner Osborne (pictured), chief marketing and innovation officer at Teachers Life, provided a deeper look into this program by sharing some insights on its formation and objectives:   

How did the idea for the Press Start CoLab program come about? Can you walk us through the decision to launch this initiative?

Teachers Life is a fraternal insurer who has been in the Canadian marketplace for over 80 years. We were started by education workers in 1939 and we have been providing life, disability, and sickness insurance to education workers since then.

nowly Insurance launched in February 2022 as a division of Teachers Life for all Canadians who wish to purchase term life insurance from an insurer that genuinely cares about the health and wellbeing of their policyholders (aka members) and is very serious about its responsibility to give back to the communities in which it serves.

When we were developing our value proposition for nowly, we always knew that an innovative social give-back program would be at the core of our nowly brand. We asked our members what was most important to them. Given they were education workers, it’s not surprising that they asked us to focus on youth who want to make a positive social difference. Hence, the Press Start CoLab program was developed.

We then worked with a panel of youth activists across Canada to help come up with the social challenge areas most important to youth today. Our youth panel guided the themes for this program. The Press Start CoLab Program is a direct response to the issues that Canadian youth feel are most important to them.

Can you provide more insight into the specific mental health issues that the program aims to help young entrepreneurs address? 

We formed an expert panel to help us determine what are the most critical areas worth exploring that are contributing to the mental health crisis in Canada. This panel included leaders of established Canadian mental health organizations, clinicians, academics in mental health, grant recipients from the 2022 Press Start CoLab Program who are focused on mental health, and innovation design strategists.

The panel came up with four sub-topics:

  • Accessibility and navigation of mental health services - Investigating mental healthcare systemic barriers and design constraints of cost, treatment modalities, technology, support systems, and the patient journey
  • Stigma and misinformation around mental health - Examining the approaches to de-stigmatizing and educating groups, including but not limited to families, communities, individuals, youth, and the general public, on mental health and mental illness
  • Diversity and cultural sensitivity in mental health resources - Recognizing the nuances of intersectionality that affect mental health and the barriers to appropriate mental health resources, including cultural sensitivities, diverse approaches to treatment and care, available languages, inclusivity, and equity
  • Inclusive and evidence-based research on mental health - Focusing on mental health evaluations and research methods that are grounded in inclusive, up-to-date, and politically unbiased data

How will the program select the 50 participants from across the country? What criteria will be used to evaluate the applications?

We have an application form that the applicants must complete. Applications are now open and close June 2, 2023.

We are seeking passionate individuals ages 18-29 years who clearly demonstrate a sincere interest in making being a part of positive social change for good in this challenge area. We are also seeking applicants who bring unique and diverse perspectives. This program is about them not us. We want as many diverse perspectives as possible to make up the 50 youth changemakers who will be collaborating on ideas and social change.

The quality of all our applicants is overwhelmingly high, making the job of our selection committee almost impossible.

How does the Press Start CoLab program align with Teachers Life’s existing commitment to investing in communities across Canada? Are there any specific initiatives or projects that have been supported in the past? 

Teachers Life has always had a strong mission to give back throughout our 80+ years of operations.

We have always had a focus on mental health. Over the last number of years, Teachers Life has run an online resource program called Ready for Life which features resources from leading mental health experts for educators who want to learn more about their own mental health as professionals, as well as in their role in championing the mental health and wellness of today’s youth.

The Press Start CoLab Program takes this idea to a whole new level by empowering youth to work with mental health leaders to find unique solutions to the mental health crisis. Next year, we hope to roll the program out to a younger secondary school age cohort.

What are your thoughts on this story? Feel free to comment below.

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