Written by Eva Wu
Lighting. Shutter speed. Color correction.
Those were the clicking through my mind as I dashed back and forth with my camera trying to capture the joy and excitement in the gym as volleyballs and basketballs flew through the air. An abundance of youth had flocked to the JS Centre Monday evening for the first official day of the Nain in Focus mental health workshops, regardless of the Halloween festivities that could have occupied their time.
My rush of enthusiasm was only augmented as the group moved outside to explore their newfound photography interests.The moments were magical. Golden Arctic sunshine bathed the laughing faces, as the group got their moment in the spotlight, each a subject of a paparazzi photoshoot as their peers began to handle our short supply of DSLR cameras for the first time.
Personally, this was a moment of pure joy. Joy just being outside hearing laughter fills me with a flood of warmth that greatly contrasts the brisk Nunatsiavut breeze. This got me thinking about the liberating impact the presence of nature can have on our social and mental health, ideas that were highlighted during our tea earlier in the day with Gary and Martin at the Torngat Mountains National Park office.
Gradually this activity translated back into the classroom, where Patrick gathered the participants into a discussion on spectrum through which mental health and illness can manifest in people’s lives. Highlighted was the idea that all individuals have mental health that have natural fluctuations regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness.
But those natural human fluctuations and illnesses are struggles that are so often stigmatized - regarded as issues that aren’t suitable for discussion amongst friends and family - thus abruptly bringing the conversation on management and recovery to a standstill.
With those ideas in mind the Nain in Focus group whipped out our signature bright yellow Post-It© notes and made our best efforts to bring about support amongst the individuals who could be impacted by our program. In English and Inuktitut we hashed out ideas and splattered them over the bright stationary. At the end of the workshops what lay in our hands were supportive and caring messages that could be incorporated into quick, shareable pictures for the community to see.
The youth ran around the gym, clicking away as they captured images of each other with the yellow Post-It© notes stuck to their fingers, images that we hope to share on social media in Nain, hopefully over Nunatsiavut, maybe even across Canada. We want to show people we can help. We want to show people we care. We want to show people we understand.
After hundreds of photos, the whole group was reminded of what lay beyond the Nain in Focus doors, as the skies grew darker and costume clad youngsters began dashing about. Soon, we all bolted to our respective dwellings to change into our night-time ensembles.
Now, spending Halloween in Nain was the absolute best way to end the day. We saw everything from self-inflating miniature polar bear suits to Crayola© boxes. Nearly everyone had some form of a costume, pulling the community together for such a unique holiday. Naturally the NIF team headed with the crowds to become a mobile sugar dispensing unit. Albeit, standing by the roadside waiting for children to pass by may not have given off the most magnificent first impressions, but every child and every parent had a smile plastered on their faces after getting a few pieces of candy in their hands.
Regardless of all our fatigue from endless planning to late night video editing to friendly meetups over tea, there has yet to be a time when our exhausted minds forget the gratitude and joy that has been instilled upon us from the beautiful, talented Nain.
Follow the workshop on Instagram @northinfocus and share your photos using #northinfocus