Tonight marked the first (of many to come) salon conversations thematically centered on connecting our youth and transforming the vast landscape of (me)ntal (health and (you)th at risk using the positive platform of education and prevention.
What is a salon and how does it differ from a traditional speaking engagement? Salons have been around since the 1600s; which explores the art of public conversation. An enhanced dialogue where brevity is the name of the game, and the flow of the event is not dictated by a regimented set of paramters, but by the direction of the audience based on personal passions, perspectives and opinions on the theme of the salon. It is meant to be interactive in an atmosphere of free flowing idea generation. The 3 speakers I selected, I believe deeply represent greatness in our community and are directly linked to our chosen audience demographic and theme of our salon – “liberated transparency.”
li.ber.at.ed – “the be set free; from opression; to achieve equality. Showing freedom from social conventions or traditional ideas.”
trans.par.ency – “in this context, openness, communication, disclosing all information, the sharing of resources without confines or boundaries.”
The goal of the evening – start a dialogue with youth and passionate people with a proven track record in mental health, youth and breaking stimgatization. There is a movement going on right now and it is a movement to re frame mental “illness”, a movement that is quickly gaining momentum towards an unprecedented, revolution of youth standing up against stigma; which shone brightly here tonight.
In our audience was also Michael Schratter, pioneer of the Ride Don’t Hide Campaign! having a superhero who cycled 40,000km and raised nearly $76,000 in your audience makes one a little hyper and nervous all at the same time. The guy is an icon and well, just simply rocks. (http://www.ridedonthide.com/)
Speaker One: Kristina Dixon -Canadian Mental Health Assocaiton(Vanc/Burnaby Branch)
First up was Kristina Dixon, Child and Youth Services Program Coorindator for CMHA. Working primarily with children and youth with anxiety she took us on a journey of new up and coming programs that are gaining results and much needed traction.
One program that perked my interest was PANDEMONIUM. Apart from the uber cool name, it’s a program that provides an afterschool recreation program for youth 13- 7 years old who have experienced anxiety. This group runs once a month and allows youth who have experienced anxiety an opportunity to participate in recreation in their community in a supportive and safe group. http://vancouver-burnaby.cmha.bc.ca/about-us
Speaker Two: Odd Squad Productions Society (Vancouver Police Department)
Early intervention, prevention and education are key! Using the innovation behind directing and producing award winning documentaries, Odd Squad’s goal has been to empower youth to make positive life choices and to design programs that honour and motivate youth. One of the key realizations and feedback receieved from our feedback artifact sheets was that “peer-to-peer” support groups are the largest generator of success rates amongest teens in prevention of drug use. OSP speaks to thousands of kids and youth per year, and when they encourage kids and youth to take the stage – that is when the real magic happens.
We watched a short video from OSP that showcased “Heather,’ a young 29 year old woman who really wanted a better life, but had fallen into the viscious cycle of crack and heroin addiction. The reality is, we are all human and we make mistakes. Heather, in a tearful moment, (where I felt myself choking back tears), starts to tell us that heroin rules her life, she wishes she were healthy, she wishes she could go back to school, she wishes for a better life. OSP’s trio of speakers (Cst. Toby Hinton, Cst. Mark Steinkampf and Cst. Dave Stevernding) hit home on Gangs, Guns, Drugs (say NO) and prevention! And I am not going to lie, I really, really want to be a police officer, the VPD are pioneers in the field of law enforcement and community assistance. http://www.oddsquad.com/
Speaker 3: Alana, Power To Be Adventure Therapy
The queen of the night, was most certainly Alana. Power to Be provides dynamic outdoor education programs and continues to fill the widening gaps in health, education and social service sectors for people facing significant life challenges. Alanna’s story on her hardships in school shone light on what it truly means to stand up against stigmatization and marginalization. And she would have none of it!
From a young age (now she’s in Grade 11), Alana always knew what she wanted to do – be a journalist or a lawyer, so that she support her community and to speak out and say there is no “they” there is only “us – as a whole.” We are all human beings, and should be treated with respect. This is one young girl, who I have no doubt, will not only live her dreams, but will have a massive following of inspired people in her footsteps. http://www.powertobe.ca/
Q “what can we as mid adults (no longer youth, but not quite adult status yet) do to help engage others and support this platform?
A (Cst. Toby Hinton replies). “The best thing you can do is find the thing that you are passionate about, that one talent and then do it.” Using the OSP Hockey mentorship program as an example. Using health as a platform or vehicle towards empowerment has a proven track record. I of course added my 3.2 cents with RUN4ACAUSE and the importance of team dynamics as a building block for peer support and self confidence.
Q “what resources can youth use to help support teachers, parents and their peers, are there enough resources at school?”
A FACT: We know that the necessary resources only 1 in every 6 children or youth in Canada, however there is hope. Aliya Dossa, a TEDxKids@BC Speaker and top notch power young adult says, “at our school we have the “be a buddy” where they pair students with other students who are struggling with signifcant life challenges and in Planning 10 classes, more and more “outside the tranditional box” speakers and concepts are being added yearly. My hope is that this becomes mainstream for high schools. We know the high schools that do not lack funding have a larger opportunity to speakers and projects, but I wonder about the schools that fall under the radar or become labeled as “at risk.” I would like to research this more.
Conclusion:Overall, the evening was very insightful, it spawned an organic flow of dialogue between guests and speakers and everyone participated in some capacity. Considering this was my first full spectrum salon, I think I pulled it off quite well. More importanly, the speaking organizations deserve a round of applause for their continued success and hard work in building the framework towards a more positive platform on (me)ntal (heal)th and (you)th at risk.
These salons are arranged every 2 months, each time with a specific focus and theme connecting youth the with change agents in our community. Each salon gives way to new ideas, empowerment and connections. Until next time…