Written by Gabrielle Foss
Today I experienced the fastest eight hours of my life. As the North in Focus team trudged down Nain’s main road en route to the school – still groggy after a long night of photo editing and program planning – we went over the schedule for the day. It would consist of a 2-hour class visit for the grade 7s and 8s, followed by 6 hours running activities in the JS Centre. And yet now I’m sitting at our kitchen table in the apartment, reflecting on all the important discussions that were had, and all the excitement that was generated!
The class visit began with the hand-up/hand-down activity, ensuring every student was aware they had a state of mental health. We then spoke about the applications of photography for storytelling, stigma reduction, and as a self-care activity. Two videos were shown, featuring the lived experiences with mental illness and substance abuse from Clara Hughes and Jordin Tootoo. Prior to watching those videos, the class brainstormed negative terms that are commonly associated with people who have a mental illness. These included words like “crazy”, “dangerous”, and “FAS”. However after hearing Clara and Jordin’s stories, we revisited the words and saw quite the opposite. People like Clara and Jordin - people who live with mental illnesses - are strong, brave, intelligent, and unique. On this, the whole class agreed.
The evening program included sports and a photo walk, and then Megan Dicker delivered a presentation encouraging her peers to use social media to spread positivity. I’ve personally benefitted from Megan’s uplifting Instagram posts sharing the joy of life’s simple pleasures, such as a cup of tea and a good book. We all use social media, why not use it for good? My heart swelled a few sizes as the participants wrote sticky notes to be posted on the wall around a central theme of Northern Pride (prompt question: what makes you proud, happy, or grateful).
As we all drank Tetley and munched on leftover Halloween candy, we discussed the difference between an Earache and a “Psychache”. You can’t see an earache, yet no one hesitates to talk to someone about it and reach for treatment. Yet when it comes to a mental instead of physical illness, people often keep their feelings bottled up. One goal of the Nain in Focus workshop is to change this response. Before breaking for dinner, the charismatic Christine Peddle (a local counsellor from Labrador-Grenfell Health) addressed the youth about the mental health resources available to them, and promoted a variety of coping skills.
From 7pm onwards, we had a blast decorating hats – an activity that brought in first-time Nain in Focus participants – and playing around with light painting. Good vibes all around as we danced and chatted into the night. Some participants were eager to provide feedback, so I’ll end this post with their words:
I think the workshop has fun activities, and nice staff, I’ll miss you guys. –Julie Obed
The workshop is a good thing to do because we get to do activities instead of people playing games, iPod, or watching TV. –Rae Dicker
The workshop is really cool, had a fun night tonight I really wish we can do this more often. -Sheila Angnatok Jr.
#bullsh*t word of the week. –Jonathan Lidd (in reference to the card game FYI)
I have not much to say but I can say that this week was amazing! Now I know that ill always be happy with everyone together to ensure a long life and so others will show an interest in helping you out when you’re alone. I also learned this week that it is not good to avoid big problems by making a big issue out of small matters. Sapilittailigit-Don’t ever give up. I’ll see you guys again on the road, my name is moo, like the cow says (lol), first name Simeonie. I wish you all an enjoyable happy life. –Simeonie Merkuratsuk
I didn’t think everybody had a mental illness, mental health in them and its important to learn about the things that we don’t know. There is so much to learn. -Jonathan Lidd