Back in August we posted a blog post titled, “AWH in the Arctic.” I was stunned when I reread it today because I realized just how much has happened since then. In that post we first introduced our goal to complete a photography and mental health workshop for youth in the Canadian Arctic. Now that plans are being solidified and tickets have been bought, I am so excited to update the AWH community on all the progress that has been made in the past 5 months!
The first step - that catalyzed the rest of the development of this project - was our partnering with Madeline Yaaka and her mother Marion. I met Madeline aboard the SOI 2015 Arctic expedition and at that time she expressed interested in having us lead the workshop in her community in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). The rest is history. We have been collaborating with Madeline and Marion since September, and we are so grateful for their support and can’t wait to visit their community of Kangirsujuaq, Quebec!
TIMELINE AND OBJECTIVES
Another important detail we should mention is when we have decided to complete this project. Last summer when Eva, Jennifer and I sat in a poutine shop and enthusiastically brainstormed ideas for this initiative, we planned to complete it within 2 to 3 years. After meeting Madeline, we thought we could be really ambitious and do it as early as May 2016. We worried about not having enough time and how we all have to get summer jobs in May to pay for university…
So naturally our solution to that hiccup was to aim to run this project even earlier, in February 2016! So now it is January, and we are busily finalizing details for our departure in a mere 27 days. Yet somehow, everything is coming together and we are ready to take off. We will be arriving in Kangirsujuaq on February 13 and staying until February 20. During that time, we will be leading a 5-day workshop for 12 students aged 13 and over. The workshop involves three major components:
1) Educating the students about mental health
2) Teaching basic photography skills
3) Using photography so youth can express themselves and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the community
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE CANADIAN ARCTIC
Mental illness and suicide in the North is a complex matter. There are numerous possible causes for the current alarming statistics, but nevertheless, it is time to start finding solutions. Our project mentor, Marion, writes:
“At present, very few people in Nunavik seek treatment for mental health issues. Many individuals living with this problem are stigmatized as being “crazy” or “out of it” and are often ignored or shunned by other members of the community…We are now aware that 90% of all youth who die by suicide have an undiagnosed mental illness…Knowing more about the symptoms, causes and treatments may help individuals and family members understand what is happening and when to seek help.”
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Enter our project: Northern Lights. The name stems from the notion that depression is often referred to as darkness, and the goal of this project is to allow light back into the lives of youth whose mental health might be suffering. A skilled photographer knows how to manipulate their camera in order to let more light into a photo, consequently revealing beauty that darkness would otherwise mask. By teaching youth about photography, we hope this skill can transfer over to let them find beauty and joy in everyday life.
NEW TEAM MEMBERS
We have also recruited two more team members to assist with this project. Patrick Hickey, who is also a first year student at Western University, is our Mental Health Awareness Advisor. He has been heavily involved in various mental health initiatives in his community of St. John’s, and has recently been working hard on the mental health activities for the Northern Lights workshop. In addition, Eric Foss will either be working as our Videography Advisor or as the Videographer for this project, depending on how much funding we can collect in the next few weeks! He was a photojournalist with the CBC for 30 years, and will contribute his skills and expertise to ensure we can put together a documentary after the project is over. This film will be shared via social media to raise awareness about mental health in the North.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Thank you for taking the time to read this, feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to know more! We are psyched to soon be able to put our work to good use, and make a difference in this community. We hope to also take this opportunity to learn more about Inuit culture and daily life in the Arctic. Eva, Patrick and I are all very passionate about engaging youth and empowering them to reach their full potential. We believe that addressing mental health in the North is at the root of solving other problems that exist there and creating hope for the future of youth in Canadian Inuit communities.
Please like our Facebook page and follow our Twitter to stay updated with all the action that will be happening: leading up to our voyage to Nunavik, during the workshop, and upon our return when we deliver presentations and release our documentary.
To make a donation to help us complete this project, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Every dollar counts and goes a long way towards making this project a success!
Qujannamiik (thank you!),
That reminds me, we have to learn some Inuktitut within the next 27 days…ikajunga (help)! Tavvauvutit (goodbye), for now.