More than 100 children and teenagers gathered at Toronto City Hall on Friday to learn about mental health issues, especially from those with lived experience.

Mental health advocate Asante Haughton was one of the speakers.

“I started when I was 13, 14 years old,” Haughton said. “I started to isolate myself a lot from my friends. I was really into sports and I stopped playing baseball, I stopped playing soccer.”

It took a couple of years, he said, with support from family and friends, before he got back to his active lifestyle – and he still needs to watch for his mental well-being.

“Every. Single. Day.” he said. “I do notice when I’m not disciplined with my sleep or my diet or my exercise, those things are really important for me.”

The executive director of Youth Mental Health Canada, Sheryl Boswell, said the community fair is a first.

“The workshops today cover everything from human trafficking to crisis response to mental health promotion, mood disorders.”

Boswell said while many of these types of events focus on mental health workers, this one puts the spotlight on people with lived experience.

Michelle Liu, 15, is one of those people. As well, there’s at least one other person in her family who has also been treated for mental health issues.

She said she was lucky to have ready access to treatment but many others don’t, especially when faced with the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“Some people just think you’re doing it for attention. A lot of people don’t even think it’s a real thing,” she said. “It was very frustrating at first but in the end I think I was very fortunate because I surround myself with people who are very understanding.”

Liu said she hopes teaching children about taking care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health, will normalize conversations about mental health problems.

While Friday’s event was educational, she also had fun, especially in one workshop where learning about de-stressing and relaxation meant learning to create your own spa products.

The community mental health fair continues Saturday with events at George Brown College.