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Other CAMH Services Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest (BTCN)

A CAMH Public Education and Anti-Stigma Program

Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest is CAMH’s longest-standing educational outreach program to high school students and it aims to increase awareness among youth of the causes, treatments, signs, symptoms, and interventions for mental health and addictions issues.  

The program was developed in 1987 by nurse case managers at the former Clarke Institute of Psychiatry -one of the founding partners of CAMH - in response to the community's expressed need for education on mental health and addiction issues. Given that 70% of adult mental illnesses have their onset in childhood and adolescence, this education program was aimed towards Ontario high school students.  

The name Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest(BTCN) was inspired by the award-winning movie and novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ which portrays mental health care as oppressive and stigmatizing. BTCN is designed to dispel common myths around mental health and addiction issues by paying homage to the move towards creating safe, healing spaces for clients and their families. Getting young people talking and thinking together about their own mental health is one of many ways we engage the audience to confront and break down stigma.

BTCN Program Objectives:

  • Increase mental health and addiction awareness
  • Open conversations around confronting and dismantling stigma
  • Identify early warning signs
  • Provide approaches for reaching out to a friend
  • How to get help and connect to helpful resources
  • Strategies for maintaining wellness and overcoming barriers to our wellness
  • Identify actions students can take to make a difference in their communities
  • Provide a forum to initiate and sustain conversations about mental health and addiction issues

Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest is a two hour workshop facilitated by clinical mental health professionals and people who have either experienced mental health and addiction issues themselves or through a member of their family. This is what makes BTCN unique and helps it stand above and beyond other outreach programs – having the balance of perspectives and expertise.

In the workshop a variety of techniques are used to engage our student groups around these topics.  These include:

  • The use of social media and handheld technology: YouTube videos and social media allow BTCN to engage youth around their preconceptions and to promote access to resources. 
  • Interactive activities: Games and small group activities around mental health awareness, early warning signs, and wellness.
  • Question and answers: Discussion of definitions, descriptions of mental health and addiction issues, and various interventions, both past and present.
  • Face to face interactions with those having directly experienced mental health and addiction issues: Personal recovery stories are shared, with  the far reaching impact they have had on people’s lives.
  • Experiential activity: Practical methods for maintaining wellness and managing stress such as breathing exercises are discussed and practiced.


For more information about Beyond the Cuckoo Nest and to register your school for a workshop, please contact CAMH at 416 535 8501 ext. 34969.

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