Our Roots

Our Roots

In 1999, three mothers who had children in the inpatient psychiatric program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) began informally supporting each other in waiting rooms and hallways. In 2000, at the initiative of Cynthia Clark, Pleo received its incorporation with its charitable status. It provided a monthly support group for parents at CHEO. A great deal of effort was invested to connect with service providers to advocate for the needs of the families it was supporting. The approach to mental health care at this time included little involvement from families in the treatment planning for their children.

In 2010 Pleo was invited to be a member of the Community Suicide Prevention Network, a group of providers in Ottawa focused on addressing youth suicide. As part of that Committee (now Suicide Prevention Ottawa) Pleo made the case that better navigation and support services for parents and caregivers would help reduce the risks of suicide. These services would help youth get faster access to service. Armed with the results of a parent survey, Pleo secured the support of the committee to develop a plan for a Family Navigation and Support Service. Phyllis Grant-Parker, then the President of Pleo, along with Cherry Murray, Executive Director of Crossroads Children’s Centre, developed the plan and business case for the service. Supported by the Network, Pleo applied for funding from the United Way with Crossroads’ sponsorship. The United Way was able to grant 50% of the request and the Champlain LHIN stepped up with the balance of the needed funds. On Sept 10, 2012 Pleo formally launched the Parents’ Helpline.

In 2015 the Champlain LHIN asked Pleo to expand its services outside of Ottawa and into the counties, and provided base funding. Since 2012, Pleo has grown from the initial one monthly support group to 18 throughout the region (as of Jan 2019), a helpline answered Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and one-on-one mobile support for families who benefit from more intensive, short-term, targeted support.

In 2018, this one-on-one mobile support expanded outside of Ottawa and across the entire Champlain LHIN with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

In 2019, Pleo was honored to receive the Royal’s Community Inspiration Award.


Three mothers of children in the CHEO inpatient psychiatric program begin supporting each other informally in the hospital hallways.


Pleo establishes itself as a volunteer-run monthly support group for parents at CHEO.


Pleo is invited to join the Community Suicide Prevention Network (now Suicide Prevention Ottawa). Pleo begins securing community support for a Family Navigation and Support Service plan.


Funding is received from The United Way and the Champlain LHIN. With this funding, the Parents’ Helpline can formally be launched: Monday-Friday. 9am-7pm.


Pleo expands to four community support groups and launches its One-on-One Mobile Service.


Services expand to include the area surrounding Ottawa. Five more community support groups are established, bringing the total number up to nine.


Pleo expands to over a dozen parent support groups.


Pleo grows from facilitating one monthly support group to eighteen through the region (ten in Ottawa, eight in surrounding counties), as well as operating the Helpline and One-on-One Mobile Service.


With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, One-on-One Mobile Service is extended outside of Ottawa and across all of Champlain LHIN. Furthermore, six on-site locations are introduced where staff work with partner organizations to ensure support for the whole family.


Pleo’s Supporting Parents of Suicidal Youth Campaign launches on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, and consists of various videos and infographics created using the insight of parents and youth with lived experience as well as clinicians and suicide prevention experts.


Pleo supports more families through virtual services as the COVID-19 pandemic sets off a rise in need for mental health supports.


Pleo’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Working Group is founded in July of 2021.


November 30, 2022: Pleo wins the Charity Village Award for Best Non-profit Employer for Workplace Mental Health (20+ Staff)

Throughout its history Pleo has been dedicated to systemic improvements to better serve the needs of families. Some notable involvement:


  • Presented to the Kirby Senate Committee on Mental Health regarding the needs for early intervention. This committee created the report Out of the Shadows which resulted in the development of the Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • Member of the Parent and Youth Advisory Group to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS) on the plan for Moving on Mental Health
  • Member of the Community Suicide Prevention Network and its Steering Committee
  • Member of the Family Advisory Committee at CHEO
  • Member and Chair of the Family Advisory Committee at the Royal
  • Member of AMHNC (Addictions & Mental Health Network of Champlain)
  • Member of the Committee led by Parents for Children’s Mental Health (PCMH) that developed the first version of Family Engagement Training for Ontario
  • Partner in the development of Ontario Health Teams, and in an innovative child and youth-focused model of health care for Eastern Ontario

I called the Pleo Helpline for the first time last week. Being able to speak to someone who gets what I’m going through was such a relief. I feel like I have an ally. Someone who not only gets it, but also can help me figure out what to do and where to go to help my child. Thank you for providing such a wonderful and desperately needed service.

Ottawa Parent