mental health camp today!

these are my opening remarks for mental health camp today. if you’re on twitter, you can follow the conference via the hashtag #mhcyvr10.

this is a conference that was conceived and organized in love, excitement and harmony. while we talk about stigma and silence, what is much more interesting to us is to move forward and make the world a better place.

i’m an old hippie, so i have a constitutional right to talk about love and peace and harmony.

to us, mental health camp is more than a conference where people exchange information. it’s an unconference because we have space for people to present impromptu sessions, and because so-called experts and so-called non-experts mingle freely. but it’s more than that.

mental health camp is also about working together in harmony. part of this is because raul and i and the other volunteers just happen to work really well together. when you see raul and me twitter about each other like two love birds, it’s because we just can’t get over how well we work together.

but part of this is very, very intentional. we WANT there to be open, clean and clear communication. we WANT there to be respect. we WANT for trust to unfold itself so that new things can be explored and tension can be seen as productive and exciting, not fear-inducing and creating animosity.

mental health camp is about inclusion. it’s really, really important to us that everyone gets heard, that there is a space for everyone. we were able to include just about every idea and presentation that was proposed to us. the only ones we said no to were proposals that were things like, “10 sure-fire ways to end your depression forever” – there’s lots of other venues for experts to give those kinds of talks.

and over and over again, we kept saying, mental health camp is about taking care of ourselves. i can’t tell you how often raul and i said to each other and to volunteers and presenters that we can’t have mental health camp turn into a stress fest. how absurd that would be! we need to walk our talk.

you can see, then, that mental health camp is about mental health. it’s not called mental illness camp, or depression camp, or stigma camp. a huge part of mental health consists of harmonious co-operation, good communication, respect, trust, inclusion, self care – and love.

it is with love, then, that we break the silence, because love needs to express itself. breaking the silence, setting us free is the theme of this year’s vancouver mental health camp. love does not constrict, that’s why “setting us free” is important.

it is with love that i want to thank our wonderful PR person and media concierge cathy browne for coming up with just the right words to express our theme, and for all the great things she’s doing for us.

it is with love that i thank airdrie, who started this whole thing. airdrie had this idea last year to do a little panel about mental health with herself, tod maffin and myself, at our annual blogging conference, northern voice. well, that little 45-minute panel was the powerful seed for what is now starting to feel like a movement.

this is the 3rd mental health camp in 14 months. there was one in toronto in may, and they will certainly have another one. we know of two other people who have plans to do mental health camps, one in the UK, another one here, specifically for the south asian community, to be run by kulpreet singh. we’ve also heard rumours of places like san francisco wanting to do something like this, right, AJ?

and it is with love and respect and admiration that i want to give you a brief overview over some of the ideas that are being offered to you today.

the topic of breaking the silence, setting us free, is being touched on by many of our presenters. steffi cameron, for example, will talk about “ripping off the scabs”. it’s interesting to think about that image. it’s not exactly rosy and mushy. come to think of it, the idea of “breaking” the silence is also pretty strong. clearly, finding a way through to honest self expression isn’t always easy. and by self expression i mean artistic self expression but more than that – expressing the self. this is who i am.

other people who speak directly to this topic are terra, who did an unforgettable talk about mommy bloggers and mental health last year, as well as catherine omega and steven schwartz. steven schwartz will also talk a bit about mad pride, i think. the mad pride movement goes beyond breaking the silence, it breaks new ground. mad pride, steven tells us, was grown on the success of gay pride. and let’s not forget the commonalities here. being gay was also once something that had stigma attached to it, and look how far we’ve come. there’s lots we can learn here. mad pride is described as “a fun movement that celebrates the human rights and spectacular culture of everyone who is “different,” and isn’t that everyone?”

another group that’s connected to mad pride is gallery gachet. gallery gachet is a collective of artists who paint, draw, sculpt and do all kinds of other neat things and also happen to have run-ins with ill mental health. gallery gachet will be hosting a series of mad pride events starting july 14, and today we have two presentations from artists connected to gallery gachet. one is jay peachy, who will do an interesting live radio event, complete with art therapy. the other event is the showing of the film “crooked beauty” over the lunch hour in the auditorium.

another presenter speaking about art, among other things, will be michelle clausius, who will be presenting art work by youth who are facing difficulties with homelessness, abuse, addiction and mental illness. covenant house’s blog “on the house” is the vehicle with which this art is expressed, and recently won an award for it.

earlier i talked about inclusion, and one of the things that we’re working towards is to try to include as many aspects as possible of mental health. homelessness is one of them, and another important one is ADD. pete quily is THE indefatigable advocate for attention surplus condition – yes, you heard it right. i love his positive twist, sounds more interesting than attention deficit disorder.

talking about positive – that’s something very important to AJ, also known as depression2.0 on twitter, who will propose the idea of an online game around mental health issues. it’s called escape from bummer island.

sean cranbury will give us a bit of balance and talk about mental health from the perspective of care providers. and i will discuss what i’ve already started here – the importance of focusing on mental health for everyone, because literally, our lives depend on it.

and talking about balance – one of the things we wanted to accomplish in this mental health camp was to give it a strong online component. one thing we’re doing is that we have a number of online moderators. they have the imaginative names of mhcmod1, mhcmod2 and mhcmod3. they will be gentle shepherds for the mental health camp presence on twitter.

the person who has inspired us to do that is amy kiel, also known as @abeeliever on twitter. she is the host of the mental health social media chat that happens on twitter every tuesday, the hashtag is #mhsm. she will be hosting a special mhsm talk today, also on twitter. i am really excited to have a virtual presence here in this real life space. this is something that i think the vancouver social media community is very good at – thanks to people like raul, we are connecting in multiple ways and building true community online and offline.

talking about offline – we have some real life support here. if you feel you need to talk someone, we have a quiet area over there. jael will be there for you, as well as perhaps a few other volunteers who have experience be present to people’s emotional needs. jael is currently studying with katarina halm, who will also give a presentation on that topic. focusing is a technique that incorporates the body’s information with emotional and thought processes. it’s fascinating!

and we’ll end with a bicycle! in a few weeks, michael schratter will start circling the globe with his bicycle. he’s doing that to bring awareness to mental illness. did you know that suicide kills more young men than anything else? michael, and i’m sure all of us, want to put an end to this, and he’ll talk about how he’ll use social media to do that.

and now i want to come back to love. i don’t necessarily mean the mushy stuff, the disney version of love. i mean the greek concept of agape. love that supports, love that revels in the presence and expression of the other, love that passionately wants the best for the other, love that heals, love that is patient, love that is so big it’s hard to describe because it brings a magical quality of goodness to all that it touches.

if we – and by we i mean you and you and you and me and all of us – if we bring these things to mental health camp today, if we bring these things to mental health and mental illness, if we bring these things to the world, then i say, we are doing a fine job.

3 thoughts on “mental health camp today!

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  3. Evan

    Hope it goes well. When I was at Uni some people organised a conference that they said was also a confluence (I liked the sound of that).

    Best wishes, Evan.

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