“Everyone has a mental health story. Talking about it shouldn’t be taboo.”
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
Art with Impact is visiting Lakehead once again for their “Movies 4 Mental Health” event on March 6th, 2018. Art with Impact is a charitable organization that focuses on opening up honest and authentic conversations regarding the topic of mental health. Through its use of various art forms, including music, film, and performance arts, AWI “is committed to a future where artists are revered as cultural icons of courage, and change, enabling young people to communicate freely and fearlessly about their mental health.”
The program’s director, Natalie Daley, says that Movies 4 Mental Health is a two-hour interactive workshop where students will have the opportunity to “talk about mental health in an authentic way using film and art as a means of leading the conversation.” The multifaceted workshop will start with conversations about the myths and stereotypes surrounding mental health which are often perpetuated through popular media. Following these opening conversations, the movie screening component of the workshop will begin.
Currently, AWI has the world’s most diverse film collection relating to mental health issues. The organization’s film collection has been accumulated through a monthly film competition where a panel of jurors, which includes two students, two film makers, and two mental health professions, selects one of a minimum of twelve submitted films, all related to mental health issues. Each month, the winner of this contest not only has their film entered in AWI’s mental health film library, but also receives a $1000 cash prize. Daley says, “it’s a great way for emerging or first-time film makers to submit because there’s no fee and have a pretty tall chance of winning the prize.”
With 44 films total, Daley says that their library “allows us to have the ability to really talk about the most pressing issues on [specific] campus’ [and] to student [communities].” The films used in each workshop are selected based on the nature of the specific issues particular to each campus, making each workshop unique. In addition to the screening of these films, a small group of students from Lakehead’s Thunder Bay campus will openly speak about their own experiences with mental health, resilience, and recovery. AWI has teamed up with Lakehead University’s Aboriginal Awareness Centre in order to connect with students who are willing to share their experiences and stories. Daley adds that they choose the films after hearing the student’s stories, “so that we can have multiple representations of an illness or a mental health issue, so that people can get multiple examples.” Through this approach, AWI hopes to make their workshop as relevant as possible to Lakehead and its student body.
“It’s very much interactive. It’s not meant to be a ‘come in tell and students what they know about mental health,’ it’s really meant to kind of leverage [their] experiences and perceptions – because ultimately, [mental health] is so personal that nearly everybody is their own expert of their experience,” explains Daley. She adds that using the collective knowledge that students already have in combination with art and film enables them to have conversations that speak to participants in their workshops.
The workshop will also feature lectures held by campus and community services members who are dedicated to supporting students along their journey to mental health wellness. This component of the workshop is designed to show students the variety of different services available to them and how they can be accessed.
Daley, who originally became involved with AWI as an intern several years ago, believes that these kinds of workshops are important for demonstrating the types of resources available for students to talk about mental health and get help if needed: “It’s a topic that I’m passionate about. I lost one of my closest friends to suicide almost 4 years ago and personally and in my professional work, [working with AWI to develop these workshops] just felt like a really good fit to give back and have these meaningful conversations that I really wish were present when I was in university.”
AWI encourages Lakehead faculty to get involved as well. Daley welcomes faculty to inform their students of the workshop and attend if possible, noting that, “it’s a holistic issue so the more people to be a part of the conversation the better.” Ultimately, this event is designed to encourage students to be open to each other about their experiences so that they can encourage and support one another through their own struggles with mental health.
The event will be held on Tuesday, March 6th from 5 to 7pm in UC1017. In addition to inspiring conversations and screenings of award winning short films, there is also a promise that pizza will be provided. Mental health is “a topic for everyone” and workshops such as these are crucial in developing our school community and compassion. This workshop is free for all who attend, and it is certain to be “a worthwhile and valuable two hours.”